A 93-Year-Old Woman Was Eaten Alive By Parasites At A Substandard Georgia Nursing Home, Family Claims

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A 93-year-old woman died a slow and agonizing death, as her skin was literally eaten alive by parasites, while workers at a nursing home riddled with health violations failed to act. Now her family wants the nursing home’s owners to pay up, the Washington Post is reporting.

Rebecca Zeni’s life before she got sick stands in stark contrast to her unfortunate last days. Her daughter, Pamela Puryear, says that Zeni was a trailblazer in her day. At a time when most women were expected to marry young and have kids — that is, the ’40s and ’50s — the young North Carolina woman eschewed that in favor of a life of excitement (at least, by the standards of the day). She got a job at a naval base. She modeled in New York (Puryear says that her mother’s face could “capture a room”). She worked for CBS.

“Her life just became exciting. She thought in her mind that everybody’s life is just like this.”

Eventually, though, she did settle down, get married, and have kids.

Her death was far less exciting and glamorous than her life.

Mrs. Zeni spent the last five years of her life at Shepherd Hills Nursing Home in LaFayette, Georgia. And during the last six months she spent there, which were the last six months of her life, she was in constant pain.

That’s because the elderly lady had contracted scabies, a highly contagious parasitic infection. Mites had burrowed under her skin and laid eggs all over her body, to the point where thick crusts appeared all over her skin. Her fingers had turned black and, in some places, her skin was falling off.

Her family has produced photos of Ms. Zeni’s condition at death — photos so disturbing that they will not be published in this article. You can see two of them in this tweet, but be warned, they are disturbing in the extreme.

In a lawsuit, Ms. Zeni’s family alleges that workers did nothing to either prevent or treat her disease, nor did they do anything to ease the woman’s pain.

In fact, PruittHealth, a for-profit company that owns dozens of nursing homes, including Shepherd Hills, has been on the receiving end of alarming complaints before. Medicare gives the company a one-star rating — its lowest — based on substandard care, among other violations.

In 2016, for example, one patient was incorrectly given twice the required amount of morphine in a 30-minute period, causing him or her to overdose. Similarly, Shepherd Hills alone racked up three dozen violations between 2014 and 2016.

Family attorney Mike Prieto says that the nursing home’s owners betrayed the trust of Ms. Zeni’s family.

“At the end of the day, our client trusted them and her trust was betrayed.”