Janice Verdin had no illusions about how bad a nursing home could get. Over her decade and a half as a nurse in south Louisiana, she’d worked in facilities infested with roaches and vermin, buildings where mold took over and staff worked under leaking ceilings. But she felt devoted to the residents, many of whom were poor Medicaid recipients with chronic health conditions. It could be a dirty job, but someone had to do it.
By the summer of 2021, she had spent three years working at South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab — a facility in Verdin’s bayou hometown of Cut Off, owned by an eccentric millionaire named Bob Dean. Verdin had worked at Dean’s nursing homes before and found them substandard, but South Lafourche was different: The building was cleaner; the management was professional; and the other nurses cared deeply about their work. So much did it stand out from the others, Verdin said, that earlier that year she brought her aunt, Marie Roussel, there to live. She had little reason to suspect that the greatest challenge of her career was yet to come.