Ailing Navy Vet Evicted From Iowa Nursing Home For Unpaid Bill

| by Kathryn Schroeder

John Chedester, 65, a seriously ill and disabled Navy veteran, was evicted from an Iowa nursing home when he could not pay his bill.

Chedester was living at Elmwood Care Centre in Onawa, Iowa. On November 1, 2013, the facility removed him from the premises and dropped him off alone in an unfurnished apartment with no food, medication, or telephone, reports USA Today.  

At the time, Chedester was suffering from a life-threatening blood infection, congestive heart failure, insulin-dependent diabetes, and other ailments.

"He was, for all practical purposes, dumped by the care facility into a vacant apartment," said David Werning, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.

The day after he was dropped off at the apartment, a neighbor and local police intervened, rushing Chedester by ambulance to a hospital.

“I don’t think he would have lasted one more night there in the apartment,” said Sgt. Roger Krohn of the Monona County Sheriff’s Department. “We would have found a dead body there the next day.”

“They dropped me off at the apartment on a Friday, and the next thing I can remember was when I came to in the hospital on Sunday,” Chedester told The Des Moines Register.

Neighbor Kathleen James tried to help Chedester after he arrived at the apartment. She provided him with a blanket, silverware, a bowl, and a microwave oven.The apartment manager brought him food.

James took it upon herself to contact Elmwood Care Centre, and spoke with administrator Stephanie Morris.

“I was not nice when I called,” James said. “I said, ‘What are you people thinking by dropping off this man with no food or medicine or furniture?'"

Morris told her that if Chedester was hungry, he could walk across the street to the Maple Heights Nursing Home. She also added that Chedester was "manipulative" and wanted people to think he could not care for himself.

When prompted about the lack of medication Chedester had, Morris reportedly said it was not her problem.

Chedester was admitted to Elmwood Care Centre of Onawa in July after local police and state workers determined he was unable to care for himself.

Upon admittance, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, diabetes, elevated blood pressure, congestive heart failure, sleep apnea, and other ailments. State reports claim he had little or no family support, and he required supervision and assistance with walking and hygiene.

Sixty days after he was admitted, the facility gave Chedester a letter stating he was going to be involuntarily discharged on October 23 because he had not paid his bill.  

The facility tried to sign him up for Medicaid, which would have paid for his care, but he did not cooperate with staff; he showed signs of disorganized thinking, as well as incoherent and illogical, rambling speech.

According to Chedester's file at the facility, he told nurses he was having trouble sleeping as the eviction date drew near because of the uncertainty over his living situation.  

The Elmwood staff arranged for him to move to the apartment and offered to transport furniture from his home. Allegedly, he declined the offer.

Why Chedester's DHS caseworker did not intervene to prevent his being evicted to a vacant apartment is unknown at this time.

Chedester has now been readmitted to the same facility in Iowa that discharged him to the apartment.  

He had previously wanted to live at the Iowa Veteran's Home but was not given the opportunity. Iowa's State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, Deanna Clingan-Fischer, plans on contacting Chedester to discuss his moving there.

The federal government has fined Elmwood Care Centre of Onawa $5,752 for its actions.

“A $5,000 fine is nothing,” James said. “That’s nothing compared to the cost of 10 days in the hospital. It doesn’t come close to paying for what they did to this man.”

Maria Cleghorn, an executive of the home's Florida-based management company, Trillium Health Care Group, said, “It really and truly was an unfortunate situation," and that the company does not condone the manner in which the Elmwood staff handled the situation.

Administrator Morris no longer works at Elmwood.