Marion Elder Group Home Closed After Reports Of Residents Locked In Bedrooms Overnight

By Erin Jordan, The Gazette

State officials closed down a Marion group home Thursday based on allegations owners had locked four elderly residents in their rooms overnight.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals revoked the certificate of Park Setting Elder Group Home, 1470 Tama St., Marion, based on allegations operators Don and Peggy Berns locked residents in their bedrooms, in one case using a board to block the tenant's door after state officials told them not to lock the rooms.

“There was no real justification provided as to why they took that action,” said department spokesman David Werning. “It's my understanding they didn't have overnight staff at that point. I could hypothesize it was for convenience.”

A four-page certificate revocation notice says the Berns also failed to secure medication and hazardous chemicals, did not get physicians' orders for over-the-counter drugs and admitted tenants whose health needs the Berns could not meet.

“They retained individuals that were beyond their (the Berns') level of care,” Werning said. “They (residents) were exhibiting dementia and there was no record of any training for staff.”

“Not a good situation,” Werning added.

The Bernses can appeal the closure. A hearing is scheduled for Sept. 9 in Des Moines.

Residents were being moved from the group home Thursday, with Department of Human Services caseworkers and the state's long-term care ombudsman helping family members figure out new facilities or care situations, Werning said.

The closure came after a complaint was made about the elder group home, one of only three in the state, Werning said. The others are Postillion in Davenport and Seventh Heaven in Dubuque.

Elder group homes are single-family residences operated by a person providing room, board, personal care and some health-related services to three to five elders not related to the operator. The home must be staffed 24 hours a day, according to Iowa Code. Elder group homes, never widespread in use, have declined in recent years with the growth of assisted-living centers, Werning said.

Park Setting, opened in 2011, was fined $1,000 in 2012 after state inspectors found the group home insufficient in standards that include evaluation of tenant service plans, staffing and records checks. A third investigation in 2012 yielded no fines or certificate action and a 2013 survey found no violations.

The Bernses had not returned phone calls or an email from The Gazette by press time.

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