When former model, Rebecca Zeni, died three years ago at a PruittHealth nursing home in LaFayette, Georgia, an autopsy revealed that septicemia from crusted scabies caused her death. In essence, that means she died in agonizing pain, being eaten alive from the inside out by millions of parasitic mites.
This case raises all kinds of fears and questions: How could this happen in a nursing home in the twenty-first century. Didn’t the staff at the facility know she had scabies? Didn’t they treat the disease? What went wrong?
Unfortunately, we don’t have to look very far to find the answers to these questions. The PruitHealth facility is not the exception to the rule of patient neglect and lax governmental oversight at nursing homes. On the contrary, neglect of the elderly is a national dilemma, caused by the combination of chronic understaffing, lack of adequate governmental oversight, and a history of nursing home chains putting profits before people.
Nursing homes are required under the law to be staffed by qualified, experienced, and knowledgeable employees and to provide an adequate level of care. However, in many states, including here in Florida, the nursing home lobby has pushed the legislature to pass laws that allow for profit nursing home chains to operate by playing corporate shell games.
A big problem exists because these corporations get away with not meeting industry insurance requirements and avoiding liability. They drain facilities of their assets and typically operate with low staffing levels and poor quality, yet avoid accountability for their actions. PruittHealth, for example, denies it is a medical or healthcare provider and asserts that it cannot, therefore, be held liable for neglect in Rebecca Zeni’s case.
As a Florida nursing home abuse attorney, I have litigated cases involving scabies infestations like those that occurred in PruittHealth’s facility in Lafayette, Georgia, and countless other incidents of gross negligence of our aging population. I can attest to the fact that this problem sits squarely in all of our backyards and will not go away unless we address it.
Nursing homes should be held accountable for providing quality care for the elderly patients they serve. No one should be neglected or abused in a nursing home. No one should ever suffer and die in agonizing pain as Rebecca Zeni did.
Philips, K. (1 May 2018). She modeled in New York and worked for the Navy. At 93, parasites ate her alive at a nursing home. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/05/01/she-modeled-in-new-york-and-worked-for-the-navy-at-93-parasites-ate-her-alive-at-a-nursing-home/?utm_term=.b63dc263ba3c
Pierrotti, A. (28 April, 2018). Former model eaten alive by scabies in Georgia nursing home. USA Today.