There are some stories that become horrifyingly etched in our memories, and this is one of them. In October 2019, police arrested three staff members of an assisted living facility for allegedly running an elderly fight club with patients with dementia. The suspects in question — Marilyn McKey, 32, Tonacia Yvonne Tyson, 20, and Taneshia Jordan, 26 — face charges of assaulting disabled individuals by encouraging residents to fight each other in the Danby House in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 
Employees Run an Elderly Fight Club
The assisted living facility was scrutinized by investigators from Winston-Salem police and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services after receiving an anonymous tip. A state Division of Health Service Regulation report found that in June, the suspects encouraged an elderly fight club among those in their care. In June 2019, this resulted “in one resident being strangled with her face turning red… while staff recorded and shared the video through social media.” One woman was 70 years old, and the other was 73.
According to the state report, this video showed one of the staff members telling the fighting patient to “punch her in the face,” according to the state report. Additionally, the video captured a brief conversation where another employee said, “Are you recording?” and “You gonna send it to me?” The justification for allowing the fight was because one of the residents “always caused problems,” according to the employees.
The staff members in question would also get physically aggressive with the patients. The video showed one of them assaulting a patient. Allegedly, McKey pushed a 73-year-old woman into her room, the same woman involved in the fight. Meanwhile, Jordon and Tyson filmed the scene and did not help the woman. According to the report, McKey pushed the resident “into a room, turned off the light and yelled to the resident to go to sleep, and then closed the door leaving the resident in the darkroom.” 
Another video captured a resident who had fallen and couldn’t get back up. However, there were no injuries reported or found after the fighting, according to the Winston-Salem Police Department.
Danby House, which is owned by Affinity Living Group, fired the three women in June after hearing about these reports. A spokesperson came forward with a statement on NBC News. “Danby House has a zero-tolerance policy for the mistreatment of those in our care. Administrators have been working closely with the Winston-Salem Police Department throughout its investigation to ensure justice is served. Additional staff training and a more rigorous vetting process for all new and existing employees at Danby House has been implemented.” 
A spokesperson from Affinity Living Group said, “Danby House has undergone leadership changes in recent months, and we look at situations like these as opportunities to improve upon the high standard of care we provide for our residents.”
Additionally, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services told the Danby House to stop letting in new patients since the department deemed the facility “detrimental to the health and safety of the resident.”
“It’s sad, the whole situation,” said Lt. Gregory Dorn as he comments on the illness of the victims. 
Signs of Elder Abuse
Abuse can happen anywhere, but older adults are often targets. Every year, hundreds of thousands of adults over 60 experience neglect, exploitation, or abuse. It could happen at the hand of family members or caregivers, like with the elderly fight club. Additionally, people with no friends or family nearby and people with disabilities or cognitive problems are often seen as easy victims.
Many victim can’t express how they are being treated, but there are some signs to spot abuse. Victims often:
- Stop activities they enjoy
- Appear messy or unwashed
- Have issues sleeping
- Lose weight for no reason
- Become agitated or withdrawn
- Show signs of trauma
- Has unexplained cuts or bruises
- Get bedsores
- Live in unclean or unsafe conditions
- Show signs of insufficient care
When you notice these signs, it’s important to report them to adult protective services so they can investigate. This abuse will not stop on its own and many adults are incapable or ashamed to report mistreatment. Or they fear the abuse will worsen if the perpetrator sees them trying to get help. So try to talk to the person when you are both alone and offer to take them to get help from a local protective service agency or other safety providers. 
- “3 women accused of running elderly fight club among dementia patients in North Carolina.” NCB News. Ben Kesslen. October 16, 2019
- “Staff ran fight club for dementia patients at NC assisted living center, police say.” Charlotte Observer. Simone Jasper. October 14, 2019
- “Three Assisted Living Facility Workers Accused Of Running Elder Fight Club Among Dementia Patients.” CBS Las Vegas. October 16, 2019
- “Elderly care staff accused of running a dementia fight club, pitting patients against each other.” The Washington Post. Lateshia Beachum. October 16, 2019
- “Elder Abuse.” National Institute on Aging. July 29, 2020