A former employee of Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home will spend the next year under probation after a hidden camera caught her hitting a resident at the facility.
Tessie Weigetz was sentenced Monday to 12 months probation after the 57-year-old was charged with assault in December of last year. She pled guilty to that charge.
The family of Gerald Small became suspicious of the treatment he was receiving in November 2014 after he complained to them. So the family spent hundreds of dollars to set up video surveillance in his room. What they witnessed on the video was Weigetz open-hand slapping Small behind his right ear.
On Dec. 13, 2014 the Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home announced that some of its employees had been suspected for alleged neglect and assault. At the time, the home’s executive director said a video of the alleged assault had been passed to police and a third party began an investigation.
Many of Small’s family members attended the sentencing. A number of them read out victim impact statements, describing how the incident left them disgusted, depressed and infuriated. His daughters revealed how it’s been an emotional rollercoaster over the last nine months, leaving them feeling powerless. They explained how they also feel a sense of guilt because it was their responsibility to keep their father safe since he suffers from an illness similar to dementia.
Outside of court, Small’s daughter Lorie Hallas read a prepared statement.
“While nothing can undo what has happened to our loved one, we hope that this case will serve as a deterrent to other people who work in the care industry,” she said. “The nightmare we have faced because of this situation has had a lasting impact on our dad and on all of our lives.”
Small is said to be fearful of health care workers to this day and even the colour red Hallas conceded, since it’s the colour Weigetz often wore she said. The senior was moved to a different care home but vivid memory of the assault is something the family won’t soon forget.
“It’s just something you can’t erase from your mind. We’ll always be wondering if everything is OK.”
Reacting to the probation sentence, Hallas said it’s probably the best they could have expected in the situation.
Crown prosecutor Mitchell Miller and defense lawyer Steve Robertson made a joint sentencing submission to the judge.
“No one should be assaulted in their own home,” said Miller.
During her probation, Weigetz will have to do 30 hours of community service and take anger management programming. Robertson outlined how his client is remorseful and fell into a deep depression, ashamed of her actions that night where she struck Small. She claimed she was feeling frustrated because of inadequate staffing levels as there were only two aids looking after nearly 50 residents that night. Robertson explained how the incident was a momentary lapse of character for her. Still, he said, it doesn’t excuse her actions.
Weigetz had been previously fired from Santa Maria. Small’s family hopes she never gets employment as a care aid again. Hallas contended that they were told without the video evidence they were able to bring forward, nothing may have ever been done about the abuse.
She wants this case to be a catalyst for change within the provincial seniors care system, hoping no family has to endure what Hallas’ family had to.
“The damage is done. All we can do now is try to heal and move on and hope that this never happens again to anyone.”