Nursing Home Employee Charged with Assault

NEWPORT TOWNSHIP — A person who was responsible for the care of an elderly patient is now charged with abuse in Luzerne County. The investigation into this case began last year.

It was back in the sunny days of June when abuse was first reported at the Guardian Elder Care Center near Nanticoke. Now, nine months later, Tonya Harlos, 27, of Mocanaqua, is charged with assault and neglect.

According to court papers, Harlos was an employee at the nursing home, caring for an elderly dementia patient. The patient told police she had a fight with Harlos and that Harlos had grabbed her arms and bruised her. She also said Harlos covered her face with a pillow, took one of her dolls, and left.

Raymond Luczak lives next door to Harlos’ home in Mocanaqua. He’s 82 years old and says Harlos is nothing but nice to him.

“She always says hi. She bought me food. She invited me over for dinner,” said Luczak.

But court papers paint a different picture. According to them, Harlos told police the patient tried to bite and punch her. Harlos said she held down the patient’s arms to protect herself and denied covering her face with the pillow.

But another worker at the facility told police she saw Harlos hold the pillow over the woman’s face for several seconds.

In June, Guardian Elder Care released this statement:

“The facility is working in conjunction with local law enforcement and all other appropriate regulatory agencies to ensure ongoing resident safety.”

“I’m shocked. I didn’t think she was, I didn’t think she was that type. She didn’t look like the mean type,” said Luczak.

One note: according to court papers, doctors say despite the dementia, the patient is still able to accurately identify the workers and describe what happened.

Tonya Harlos is locked up in Luzerne County.

It’s still unclear if she had continued to work at the nursing home after the abuse case was first reported back in June.

11 comments

  • Karen

    This makes me sick. My Gram who is no longer with us lived in that home for a short period of time before she passed away and also suffered from dementia. Fortunately for us we had family members there everyday multiple times a day visiting ad staying with her and the staff we dealt with were amazing and loving to her. It’s just sad to think someone could do something like this, what if that was her grandmother!

  • kyle

    This is a very very sad thing to see, but to be honest with you, this is a very hidden common occurrence in nursing home, and in group homes.Not to take away from the wonderful people who do their job well, and operate strictly by the rules, but much needed in depth investigations into other nursing homes, and in group homes are desperately needed.

  • Sarah Waters

    This type of behavior is a very sad reflection of the “Guardian Elder Care” governing philosophy. I wonder exactly how long this would have gone on had a fellow staff member not pushed and brought it forward. These monopolizing money makers off of the elderly should be looked into along with more thorough back-ground checks. SHAME on THEM!

    • kyle

      I agree with your comment, abuse in nursing homes, and in group homes for the mentally challenged, happens all the time, and it gets the hush hush treatment, for fear of publicity, and lawsuits that would be brought on them by family members. Unfortunately, background checks don’t always reveal the true nature of some of these thugs. It is all about money. Our local nursing homes, and group homes are a place to keep a watchful eye on, but i cannot stress enough, that the good, far outweighs the bad, as far as the employees are concerned. Most go to work with a good caring heart, it’s a shame that the bad and deviant element gives the rest a black eye.

      When the elderly, or the mentally handicapped make a complaint that they were mishandled, or possibly abused, listen very closely to them, most likely, they are telling the truth, and are very aware of what is going on, just because they live their lives in a nursing home, or a group home, we shouldn’t insult their intelligent and and just ignore their complaint. Many good people who work in these facilities will read this post, some will agree, some wont, when you see an individual being abused in a nursing home, or a group home setting, report the incident, if you are an employee, and witness such behavior, and don’t report it, you are just as guilty as the person that committed the hideous crime of abuse…..The patient or client is at the mercy of the workers who care for them, they have worked all of their lives, and deserve nothing but the very best in their final years on earth, nothing but the very very best.

      • Sarah Waters

        Could not agree with you more Kyle; the true people that get into this kind of work are warm, compassionate individuals who work their tails off. In addition, I know all to well that background checks are simply just one hurdle to get through and that doesn’t prevent the bedside troubles. It simply goes back to the leadership and the lack of oversight and transparency in these situations. Then, there is also the question, what kind of training did the staff get and/or were they put in an impossible situation. We will never know the answer but I am sure we all know, putting our loved ones into Nursing Homes anymore is a frightening experience. And I for one, am confident that should this ever come to fruition, I will NEVER put my loved one in a Guardian own and operated facility.

    • Don L.P.N.

      How is this a reflecton of Guardian Eldercares philosopht? A staff member allegedly assaulted a resident. Guardian reported the incident and continues to work with the authorities. Also, how will more thorough background checks stop this problem? Do you realize that sometimes a person with NO criminal background will commit a crime? Criminals are not born witha criminal record. A person has to commit a crime and be sentenced to have a criminal record. Before they commit their first crime and get caught, they have no criminal record. Place the blame squarely where it belongs, on the person who allegedly assaulted the resident.

      • kyle

        If Guardian Care fired her after the reported incident, especially after an eye witness saw this actually happen, then no, they shouldn’t be given a black eye, because they followed protocol. If they left her continue to work, after the reported incident, then yes, that would be more than a black eye on the facility, that would be neglect on behalf of the nursing facility, for allowing an alleged abuser to keep working there,. Usually abuse falls under the nursing home rules as gross misconduct, and immediate dismissal for the incident committed by the employee.If this eye witness didn’t come forward until now, and she was only under suspension, pending the outcome of the investigation, that’s another story as well. We don’t know all the facts yet, so judging Guardian Care would not be fair, wait till all the facts are in.

      • Sarah Waters

        Your point is well taken and has merit. I do believe that the company does not tolerate abuse and tries their best to prevent this type of behavior – that would be simply destructive to their ability to effective operate their business.. Unfortunately, if you review the DOH webiste on survey results, abuse prohibition and prevention seems to be a thematic issue with this growing organization. Therefore, I make the comment that I do with the acknowledgement that hands down, I give nursing (C.N.A’s, L.P.N.’s and R.N.’s) personnel a huge applause for the amazing work they do.

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