Dutchess County man sues Genesa Home and Companionship Agency, Fidelis Care for negligence, wrongful death

Dutchess County man sues Genesa Home and Companionship Agency, Fidelis Care for negligence, wrongful death

DUTCHESS COUNTY, NY — A Dutchess County man says the home health aides he hired to care for his ailing father did more harm than good.

“I started seeing, like, this lack of care,” Thomas Zahn told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.

In 2020, Zahn took his elderly father in to his Dutchess County home, but as 93-year-old Henry’s dementia progressed, Zahn could not care for him alone.

“He would get up late or early in the morning and kind of wander,” he said.

Through his father’s health insurance company, Fidelis Care, Zahn found Genesa Home and Companionship Agency in the fall of 2020.

“Those aides rotated, you know, 24-hour schedule. One day person, one night person,” Zahn said.

Zahn had previously installed surveillance cameras in his father’s living space. He claims they were in plain sight and the aides were made aware.

Zahn says he only started paying attention to the recordings when he noticed unexplained bruises on his dad.

“I took him to Urgent Care. We had the x-rays done,” he said. “I had gotten this diagnosis that four ribs were fractured.”

Henry Zahn had fallen three days prior. His son says the aides picked him up and never reported it.

“In picking up the person, if you’re not really, really trained well, you can not only hurt yourself but hurt them more,” said Debbie Drelich, a care manager for New York Elder Care Consultants.

“What the aide often does is they take a picture of the bruise,” said Steven Schwartzman, an aging life care manager.

“The expectation is they’re supposed to notify their agency of the fall and in many cases call EMS,” Drelich said.

Disturbed by this incident, Zahn says he checked old recordings for more.

That’s when he says he learned at night, the overnight aide tied one end of his father’s catheter to his bed.

“It was almost like his tether, like his leash, so he wouldn’t go walking around. And that didn’t stop him. It just made it so much worse,” Zahn said.

When Henry wandered at night, the catheter stretched and ripped out of him, causing him to fall.

“I’ve heard some nasty things, that one, you shocked me on,” Drelich said. “A person who is so overwhelmed and really just not properly prepared to care for someone in this situation.”

“The insurance company actually admitted to my client, Mr. Zahn, that this agency that they hired wasn’t even properly certified,” attorney Dana Stricker said.

Zahn claims Fidelis Care told him because of his location in Dutchess County, they could not provide an alternate agency.

His father got an infection after the catheter ripped out. Zahn believes it ultimately contributed to his father’s death, a claim Genesa denies.

“The infections lead to the antibiotics not working anymore, and that was how he ended up dying, of sepsis,” Zahn said.

Neither Genesa nor Fidelis Care have answered any of CBS2’s questions about the allegations for this story, though Genesa denied the allegations of negligence in court filings.

In a statement, Fidelis Care told us, “The health and well-being of our members is always our top priority. However, as a matter of policy, Fidelis Care does not comment on pending litigation.”

Zahn is suing the agency and insurer, alleging negligence and wrongful death.

“Why did you want to file this lawsuit and bring attention to what happened?” Bauman asked.

“I can’t be the only one this is happening to,” Zahn said.

Experts say there are ways to vet home health care aids.

“Interview them. Ask them for references,” Drelich said. “Do your due diligence. There is a nurses aide registry, as well, in the state that one can check to see if there are any allegations.”

Experts tell us if a family suspects abuse, they should contact the state health department, and clients always have the right to ask an agency for a different home health aide.

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