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Young woman with spina bifida dies of neglect

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Basically, an 18 year old woman with spina bifida died in filthy living conditions in her families' home six days after a caseworker from the Department of Child Services made a house call. The family is saying she died of sepsis, and I'm going to assume that sepsis was caused by bedsores. The victim, Linda Kelley, was over 200 pounds, and DCS workers had questioned how the family was picking her up without a hoyer lift or something similar. Questioned, but never looked into. DCS checked on a sore spot on her leg, but didn't check other parts of her body. The DSC caseworker, as well as two workers from Damar Services, have been fired. The police are investigating Linda Kelley's death, and a judge is holding hearings to determine is Damar Services staff along with DCS falsified documents.


As a former caregiver (Someone who would have been in the position that the Damar Services caregivers were) I have a lot of conflicting feelings regarding Linda Kelley's death. There was absolutely no excuse for her to die in the horrible way she did.

And yet...I know that parents or guardians are often ignorant or uneducated regarding the care that their children need. I know that caregivers are often not given enough training to provide care for consumers (what we called the people we cared for). An anecdotal story: At the group home I worked at one of our consumers was given a feeding tube. We had no experience with feeding tubes. Our county nurse (we had one nurse for three houses of 8 residents in the county as well as various people who lived in apartments or people who lived with their parents) came in, showed us the exact wrong way to do the feeding while chirping out, "Don't do what I just did!". At least, she showed some of us. As in maybe 1/3rd of the caregivers. She was SUPPOSED to come in on every shift. That, of course, never happened.

A year later our consumer would die after having her feeding tube replaced. We were told scar tissue in her abdomen screwed with the placement, and caused her food to spill into her abdominal cavity. Her organs failed. She had the surgery on Friday. I went home for the weekend after giving her a feeding. On Sunday I received the phone call that she had died. I still wonder if we were the ones who actually had failed her.

Once, I was BEGGED by a manager at another house to fill in for one night at a residential home. I never liked doing residential, and this would solidify my dislike of it. I was never told the consumers' name. No one was at the home when I came, and I literally had to let myself into an empty house. I read the book in the house, but it told me nothing about him needing toileting (He wore depends). Nothing about his diet. Nothing about his likes and dislikes beyond a list that was several years old. I can't even begin to imagine how he must have felt. Here was some stranger he'd never met before getting him off of the bus, and helping him with intimate things such as going to the toilet.


My point is that there is no excuse for Linda Kelley's death HOWEVER it might have been much less likely had Damar Services trained their employees better or if DCS had been provided with a bigger budget from the state. A few years ago parents were told to leave their disabled children at homeless shelters because of budget cuts.


When you cut benefits and do away with entitlement programs these are the people who suffer. Staff is less trained. The field has a high turnaround so hiring practices will be relaxed to put warm bodies in. When I got hired in there was no one to oversee my training. I've heard of people who moved to different companies and had to work on 1/8 ratios (usually there is 4 staff to 8 consumers)

Most of the funding for places like Damar Services comes from social security and other funds from the government. When I still worked as a caregiver our CEO actually warned that the state might move back to institutionalization because of budget cuts. Until 70s intellectually disabled people were in state institutions along with mentally ill people. One of our consumers still bares the scars on her back where someone whipped her in the state hospital. An autistic consumer who had been in the hospital weeps over baby dolls. A gynecologist claimed that she had given birth. Institutionalization would be tantamount to abuse because it drastically increases the chances that people will be abused.


That's not to say there wasn't abuse in the group homes when I worked there. Several staff were fired for it. I was always surprised when there weren't criminal charges brought up. Which brings me back to Linda Kelley. We don't know if this is a case of neglect caused by ignorance or just through apathy. What we do know is untrained and overworked support staff increases the risk of a tragedy like this to happen.

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