A Channel 4 I-Team investigation raises questions of why a 95-year-old woman was found by family lying on the floor of her apartment, allegedly for days, at a facility that checks on its residents daily.
That woman, Sarah Ellis of Hermitage, died at a hospital a few days later.
Ellis' nephew said an ER doctor told him that there were indications she had been left alone on the floor for days.
"The ER doctor said to me, that she had developed pneumonia, and was dehydrated. And he said that indicated that she had been laying there for quite some time," said Bob Agee, Ellis' nephew.
Agee said his aunt was in good shape and was still able to walk without a cane.
It made sense to the family that she live in the independent living center at McKendree Village Towers in Hermitage.
McKendree Village made headlines in 2007 when Medicare and Medicaid canceled contracts with the facility, citing a state investigation that found multiple violations in the nursing home portion of the center.
More than 200 residents had to immediately find new places to live.
But Ellis lives in the independent living portion of the center, and her family said they believed she was being checked on every day.
Agee said staff explained that the washers on hooks at the Towers were turned over each day to indicate when a resident had been checked on.
On April 17, Agee went to Ellis' apartment and found her lying, unmoving, on the floor.
He found two days worth of newspapers in the rack on her door.
Ellis was rushed to the hospital, and the ER doctor documented in his report that she was last seen at the facility four days ago.
It is unclear where the ER doctor got that information, and the hospital would not comment on the doctor's report.
Agee said the ER report, the unread newspapers, the fact that he - not a staff member - discovered her unmoving body, is concerning because of McKendree Village's procedure to check on residents daily.
"I was led to believe every resident was checked on every day," Agee said.
A representative from McKendree Village agreed to do a sit-down interview with the Channel Four I-Team but canceled on Tuesday.
The Channel Four I-Team asked the representative about the ER report, but she would not comment. She did confirm that there is a procedure to check on residents daily at the independent living center.
After Ellis' death, there was a meeting at McKendree Village, and Agee said the question of what happened to his aunt was asked to a representative from the center.
"Her (the representative's) response was, this is an independent living facility."
Because it is an independent living facility, there will be no state investigation into what happened to Sarah.
Independent living facilities aren't regulated like nursing homes.
The AARP cautions its members that if they move into an independent living facility, it is exactly like living at home alone.
"You have to understand what level of care means, and independent means no care, unless you're paying extra for it," said Tara Shaver, AARP associate state director, community outreach.
But again, at McKendree, there is a procedure in place to check on residents daily.
"I'm pleading with McKendree Village to assess their monitoring system," Agee said.
The representative from McKendree who canceled our interview did send us a statement that read, in part, because of state and federal privacy laws, they could not discuss their current or past residents.
Copyright 2012 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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