Retired Schoolteacher Forced onto Hospice Forbidden to Have Visitors – Daughter Worried They Will Starve Her
By TLB Contributing Partner: Terri LaPoint
An elderly woman who was forced into a nursing home and onto hospice care against her will has now been forbidden to have any visitors. Without any family or friends being allowed to see retired Abbeville, Alabama, schoolteacher Marian “Mrs. Gregory” Leonard, her daughter and friends are fearful that she will be starved to death in the nursing home.
We recently reported the story of Marian Leonard being seized from her family against her will and placed under a guardianship, overriding all of her Power of Attorney and Living Will documents which named her daughter Nancy Scott as the person that she wanted to make decisions for her should she be unable. See story:
Her family has been fighting to get her out of the nursing home and back with her loved ones. Now, even her basic human right to see anyone she cares about has been ripped away from her.
“No Visitors Allowed”
Patricia Jones, a longtime friend of Marian Leonard, told Real News Spark that she made the 4 hour trip early last week from southeast Alabama to Diversicare of Riverchase in Birmingham to see her friend, only to be turned away at the door.
A lady at the front desk asked who she was there to visit. When Patricia said that she wanted to see Marian Leonard, the receptionist stepped out and returned with a gentleman who told her that he had received a letter that day from Sidney Summey, Mrs. Leonard’s court-appointed guardian. The letter reportedly states that she is no longer permitted to have any visitors.
Patricia broke down into tears as she described the shocking experience:
I really wanted to see her.
She didn’t understand why a staff member could not accompany her to Marian’s room and at least let her say “Hello.” She has never seen anything like this before.
This had been her first opportunity to visit her friend since Mrs. Leonard has been at Diversicare. She said that she drove a long way, and that she was very concerned.
Patricia has known Marian Leonard and her family for many years. She said that she has a tree named after Mrs. Leonard in her yard. Marian and her daughter Nancy have always been close, she explained, and Marian has always been a woman who was in charge of things around her and in charge of her life.
It’s hurtful for them to do her this way. I still do want to see her.
Only days before Patricia Jones was turned away from visiting Mr. Leonard, a group of her former students from Abbeville drove up to visit. They said that she recognized them, and they talked about Abbeville. During the visit, she also asked where her daughter was.
“The State Can Do Anything They Want”
On Friday, July 12, Vicky Lovelady tried to visit Marian as she has been doing two to three times a week for several months. However, a lady at the front desk told them that Mrs. Leonard cannot have visitors anymore. She reportedly said that DHR, the Alabama Department of Human Resources, is forbidding visitors “for Mrs. Leonard’s protection.”
When Vicky told the lady that this was illegal, the response was chilling:
The state can do anything they want.
Can they? Does a stranger acting as a guardian, appointed by a judge, really have the legal right to override laws?
Daughter’s Visit Cancelled
Marian’s daughter Nancy Scott, her chosen Power of Attorney, was scheduled on Friday for one of the two visits per month that the guardian had finally granted, but that visit was canceled as well with no notice.
Forced into Seclusion in Violation of State and Federal Laws
Alabama nursing home laws closely reflect federal laws. Being elderly or being a resident of a nursing home does not mean that human and civil rights disappear. There are laws in place to protect the dignity and humanity of senior citizens residing in nursing homes.
Long-term care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding are required to:
“facilitate resident self-determination through support of resident choice….The resident has the right to make choices about aspects of his or her life in the facility that are significant to the resident,” including the right to “interact with members of the community.”
“The resident has a right to receive visitors of his or her choosing at the time of his or her choosing.” (Link)
Both federal and state law clearly states that nursing home residents have the right to be free from abuse. “Involuntary seclusion” is defined as abuse in the law. (Alabama link and federal law link.)
Though Marian Leonard was able to get out of bed and sit in a recliner when she got to Diversicare, hospice staff refused to allow her to get out of bed. After more than a year of being confined to her bed, Mrs. Leonard is now bedridden, incapable of getting up.
Now that she has been forbidden to have any visitors come see her, she is by default in “involuntary seclusion.”
As we reported last month, Marian’s glasses and hearing aids are missing. Facilities which receive Medicare funds are required:
“to ensure that residents receive proper treatment and assistive devices to maintain vision and hearing abilities.” (Link)
Ineffective Remedies for Complaints
Nancy Scott and her brother Mack Gregory have been trying for more than a year to get their mother closer to her home in the Wiregrass region of Southeast Alabama, but their attempts have fallen on deaf ears.
They wrote and called the state ombudsman. Virginia Moore-Bell, state director of the ombudsman program, reportedly told them that there is nothing that her office can do about the situation “because it is under a judge.”
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