By Terri LaPoint
July 15, 2019
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 cancelled 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.”
Phone calls to the Alabama State Nursing Board resulted in similar rhetoric. Nancy says that they told her that there is nothing they can do “because it is under a judge.”
Other families from all over the United States whose family members, whether their children or elderly parents, have been seized by the state Protective agencies frequently report the same kind of impotent responses from the agencies or officials who are supposed to be the watchdogs and provide accountability.
Above the Law?
Behaviors which would certainly be considered abusive or illegal in ordinary circumstances somehow seem to be acceptable if it is done by an agent of the state, i.e. guardian, social worker, guardian ad litem, or foster parent.
Are they above the law?
There are laws which exist which, if followed, would protect Mrs. Leonard and hundreds of thousands of other senior citizens, disabled, and children from being seized unjustly from loving families and placed into situations far more dangerous, and lonely, than the ones the state “rescued” them from. As long as billions of dollars of assets and federal funding incentives continue, families are likely to continue to be ripped apart.
I will never forget the chilling words that the late Arizona Representative Laura Knaperek told me before she died, regarding the futility she saw in passing more laws to reign in the abuse of power of these agencies:
What good does it do to pass more laws when they [the agencies, social workers, and judges] aren’t going to follow them anyway?
“I Am Afraid They Won’t Feed Her”
Nancy Scott and several of their family friends are worried now that Marian is no longer allowed to have visitors. There have been times in the past that it was clear to them that she was not being fed. Without any of her friends or family permitted to see her, how will anyone know if she is being fed or not?
In France, a 42-year old disabled man Vincent Lambert was recently starved to death. The court battle over whether or not to withhold food and water was publicized and made headlines around the world. Those who wanted to kill him were very open about their intentions.
Elderly and disabled people are killed by withholding food and water here in the United States as well. The difference between these US and other countries is that, in the US, these deaths are done more covertly. When someone is under a court-ordered guardianship and loved ones are kept out of their lives, they can be quietly euthanized, with no cameras and no fanfare, with no one the wiser.
Could this happen to Marian Leonard? Her daughter is terrified that it could.
Life Legal Defense Foundation sent out a press release regarding Marian Leonard’s story:
Woman held in hospice facility against her will
The following may be contacted on behalf of Marian Leonard:
Alabama Senate Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner represents the district where Marian (Gregory) Leonard is currently being held. He may be reached at 334-261-0892 or contacted here.
Representative David Wheeler is the House representative for that district. He may be reached at 334-261-0439 or contacted here.
Representative Dexter Grimsley represents the Henry County district where Marian Leonard and her family are from. He may be reached at 334-261-0513 or contacted here.
Diversicare of Riverchase
2500 River Haven Dr.
Birmingham, AL 35244
Alabama Department of Human Resources
Adult Protective Services Division
50 North Ripley Street
Montgomery, AL 36130
Adult Abuse Hotline 1-800-458-7214
Jefferson County Adult Division of the Alabama Department of Human Resources
Nancy Scott’s prayer for her mother is that she will not die in the nursing home where she has been isolated from everyone who she knows and loves. She prays regularly that her mother “will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” This concept is found in Psalm 27:13.
Psalm 27:12-13 reads:
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Father, we ask for mercy and justice for Marian Leonard. Open the eyes and hearts of those who hold the power over her life. We choose to bless them, and we ask for favor. Soften their hearts to want to do right for this family. Provide for the physical needs for Marian, and reunite her with her children.
We declare and proclaim Your Word with Nancy — that Marian Leonard WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
We ask this in the mighty name of Jesus. Thank You, Lord.