Complaints of neglect and failure to address health issues such as bedbug infestations are not uncommon when it comes to many nursing homes. They are often characterized in popular culture as being places where people send their aging relatives to die when they can’t or won’t take care of them at the end of their lives. Of course, plenty of these facilities and the families that place their loved ones do not fit this description. However, one nursing home in LaFayette, Georgia was revealed to have grossly neglected one of their residents, who, as a result, died of a horrific scabies infestation. The case only gets more unnerving when it was found that state health officials seemed to have ignored the multiple notifications of scabies outbreaks at the nursing home prior to the woman’s death.
93 year old Rebecca Zeni, after spending her final years at the Shepherd Hills Nursing Home, died of “septicemia due to crusted scabies”. To put it bluntly, she was literally slowly eaten alive by millions of parasitic mites over a period of months or, worse yet, possibly years. This was no peaceful passing, and was very likely an incredibly painful death. Scabies is a skin condition that is caused by parasitic mites that burrow under the skin, in which the females lay their eggs that then feed on and survive off of the person’s body. Scabies is readily diagnosed and can be easily treated by a doctor. The symptoms are fairly easy to recognize, as a rash initially forms at the site of the infestation, which without treatment will lead to skin flaking off in increasing amounts, and in the case of Rebecca Zeni, eventually turning black as the infested body part dies. The horrific pictures of Zeni after her death show her skin flaking off, with one of her hands having turned completely black. The nursing home employees were even warned not to touch her hand prior to her death because it could cause the limb to fall off.
Records from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reveal that state officials were notified of multiple scabies outbreaks at the nursing home in the years leading up to Zeni’s death. Rather than inspect the facility, despite being notified multiple times, the state health department simply emailed them a manual on how to treat scabies. DPH isn’t required to inspect facilities when notified of an outbreak. However, it is regular protocol to notify the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) of these outbreaks. The DCH, which performs annual inspections of nursing homes, is supposed to then respond when it receives these complaints from the public. Reporters discovered that despite DPH claiming that it never received any notifications of a scabies outbreak at this nursing home, the nursing home has documents proving otherwise. Furthermore, there are no records of DPH alerting DCH to these outbreaks. This is one case that should alarm any family considering placing their aging loved ones in a nursing home.
Have you or someone you know ever dealt with a relative not receiving the proper medical care for outbreak such as scabies or bed bugs while at a nursing home?