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Local senior tells ordeal of ‘falling through the cracks’

By Mimi Pacifico
Thursday, July 14, 2011

If you have ever experienced what it means to “fall through the cracks,” perhaps you will be able to identify with what happened to Pat Kelly.

Born in New Jersey in 1945, Kelly came to Palm Coast in 2006 to live with her son in Bunnell. She traded her career as a dental receptionist to being a live-in caregiver.

On a bright, sunny, spring morning, she had the misfortune of falling off a porch and landing on a grassy lawn. Because most people, including her son, were working, Kelly lay there in the hot sun for several hours before being discovered by a kind neighbor who called 9-1-1.

When it came time to being released from the hospital, Kelly was sent to a pain management center where she was assessed and referred to a retirement center. While there, she suffered several other falls and was hospitalized again. During a hospital stay, the retirement center closed down and the residents were relocated.

The crack in Kelly’s care opened up and swallowed her. Because she was in the hospital and not physically in residence at the retirement center, she was apparently overlooked or forgotten. What became of her personal belongings, her identification papers and legal papers she needed to continue living her life?

“At the retirement center, I saw a sign on the wall about the role of Florida’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program and the aid it afforded residents of nursing homes. I called the number. That phone call literally saved my life,” she said.

Kelly reached out to an unbiased party, through the ombudsman program, whose purpose it was to help her solve her problems. A volunteer met with her, heard her story and set out to help solve the problem. Kelly acknowledged that she could no longer live alone and thought an assisted living facility might be her answer.

The rehab center put her in touch with Grand Villa ALF, 535 N. Nova Road, Ormond Beach.

“I am very happily situated at Grand Villa and have been living there almost a year. Caring people attend to my daily needs,” she said. “And the many activities such as regular worship services, an exercise program, movies, availability of a beauty shop, transportation to shopping, Wii bowling, arts and crafts and games such as bingo, Scrabble and Monopoly keep me busy. I’ve made some friends and am content.”

Kelly’s natural inclination to caregiving is evident as she is sensitive to the needs of other residents and reaches out to them where possible. Her experience as a caregiver has given her skills to use in helping others in similar situations.

“I couldn’t have made the progress I have without the ombudsman’s help. The volunteer who works my case is always there for me and supports me in my decisions.”

“My biggest concern right now is I have no clothes and no proof of my identity. I’d like to get them back,” Kelly said.

A Department of Elder Affairs program, the Ombudsman Program is funded by the government and services are free to residents of long-term care facilities seeking answers to their problems. One of its purposes is to protect residents’ rights as provided by law.

The program is in need of volunteers to help other people such as Kelly. For more information, call 386-226-7846.

While Kelly, the ombudsman volunteer and Grand Villa personnel continue to follow leads that will help retrieve her personal belongings and legal identification papers, it requires a lot of patience.

“I’m trying not to lose hope,” she said.

—Contact this writer at