This adorable old guy is my dad. And I may never see him again. Today I tell you why.


Editor’s note: This piece originally was published July 14, 2015, on Healthline Contributors, which no longer is live. Reprinted here with permission from Healthline (many thanks to Healthline). The incident reported here came around the one-year anniversary of an attempted homicide (that’s my definition, it still was being investigated by police as an assault last I knew) that I survived the last time I ever took a drink. It left me with a PTSD diagnosis regardless, and such behavior as what is described here is not uncommon for people with PTSD around the time of anniversary dates because they serve as triggers.

 The facility never filed formal paperwork to trespass me despite what I originally reported (they simply had a high-powered Chicago lawyer send me two threatening letters saying they had), but I was told by a judge to “keep my distance” anyway. And I trusted her. I appeared before the judge because the wellness director of the facility filed a no-contact order against me (facilities routinely take such measures when they have a demanding advocate for a resident…I heard from people not only from around the U.S., but around the world when I wrote this). The no-contact order was dismissed and I represented myself (pro se).

 I’ve been told by several attorneys that I have a solid case against this facility, but I’m not sure I have the energy left to fight. I’m glad I have attorneys willing to take the case, as it is affirming regardless.

 I’m still fighting my brother just to get the inheritance dad left me in a simple “share and share alike” will for which there should be no confusion. What a never-ending nightmare that has cost me $5,000 in attorney fees thus far! To think it continues even 15 months after dad has been laid to rest. But I’m glad he’s resting, and I’m glad I have maintained my sobriety, I am grateful for a great career and for my self-respect back.

Still, Never. Forget. What happened on this day. I never reported it at the time, but this is what led to my being taken to the Rock Island County Jail, held on no charges at all, stripped naked and emotionally tortured for two days. To think that Strategic Behavioral Health recently was denied a license for a psychiatric hospital in the Quad-Cities! What happened to me is not at all unusual. Even the Scott County Sheriff testified on behalf of Strategic Behavioral Health for the need for this facility. The Rock Island County Sheriff, meanwhile, is married to Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, former executive for UnityPoint Trinity/Robert Young, which opposed the construction of the Strategic Behavioral Health facility along with Ken Croken on behalf of Genesis Medical Center, Davenport. Genesis and UnityPoint monopolize the market for psychiatric beds in the Quad-Cities.

 This piece had almost 18,000 page views on Healthline Contributors as of last month. Thank you for allowing me to share my story.

By David Heitz

This adorable old guy is my dad. And I may never see him again.

That’s because his assisted-living facility criminally trespassed me a little more than two months ago. This occurred after I reported an intruder while I was there – someone who I recognized as a “bad guy” from my past, whether right or wrong. When they laughed at me and discredited me when I made the report, I started yelling and giving them a piece of my mind, as I admittedly had done before.

I’m very protective of my dad. And they know that, because I would show up at the facility once, twice, sometimes three times a day, at all hours, to make sure he was being properly cared for. That’s the only way to know for sure whether a loved one in a facility is getting the care they are paying outrageous sums for. Any dedicated caregiver will tell you this is absolutely true.

I would walk in on the weekends and see residents sprawled out on the floor while the CNAs were downstairs, on their phones, fighting amongst themselves, or eating candy. On the weekends, it was an absolute free-for-all. Once, a resident and their loved one became locked in an apartment due to the door malfunctioning. Nobody answered when the emergency cord was pulled. Nobody answered the phone at the front desk. Nobody answered calls for help. That person removed their loved one from the facility, as have many others in recent months.

In the first threatening letter the facility’s Chicago law firm sent, they stated I had premeditated an attack of some sort, calling the police and the front desk of the facility before arriving. A simple review of the 911 tape of my call to the police department will prove that I called because I thought my life was in danger. My life had been threatened a couple of days prior to this visit, and I had been on edge. I thought I saw other “bad guys” while walking to the facility from the bus stop, so I called both the police and the front desk of the facility to make sure I got in safely. There’s a perfectly good reason why I thought I was in danger – that also is easily verifiable – and I am not “crazy.”

I’m not the power of attorney. As the guy not writing the checks from my dad’s account, I have been laughed at, discredited and disrespected ever since my dad’s facility was sold to one of the largest assisted-living chains in America. A handful of the CNAs, particularly those working on the weekends, have been anything but professional. They get by with … anything they want. And they know it.

From day one, when the new executive director was put into place, she painted me as mentally ill. Her latest slander against me came after I sent the local elder ombudsman to dad’s facility to check on his welfare since I have been unable to see him since May 4. A month prior, dad had landed in the emergency room, a deep gash to his face. Dad reported to the doc, the hospice social worker and myself that an employee at the facility had struck him. My dad repeatedly has alleged that one employee in particular, who struts around the place threatening other employees and disrespecting residents and their loved ones, has hurt him repeatedly. I have seen this employee be rough with other residents and be insubordinate to her superiors. When I report it, I am laughed at and discredited by the executive director, who is almost never there.

So, as I was covering the White House Conference on Aging yesterday, I received a second threatening letter from the Chicago law firm of the facility. It states: “(Facility) is advising you that it will not allow anyone sent by you or on your behalf to enter upon the premises of (facility) at any time. All visitors are being screened for this purpose, in order to maintain the safety and well-being of residents, visitors and staff. If someone comes on your behalf or at your request to (facility) that person or those persons will not be permitted entrance. In addition, no mail, packages, or other items sent to (facility) by you, on your behalf or at your request, will be accepted.”

This is called isolation. They have removed his advocate and are isolating him. Classic, classic elder abuse. I am one of the most gentle guys you could ever meet. I am 14 moths sober. I have God in my life. Everyone who knows me knows this.

Why do I write this? Because this sort of thing is being replicated coast to coast. I’m not one to roll over.

Elder care in America is a disgrace. When I met Joan Lunden last year after I interviewed her for this Healthline news story, I vowed to be an advocate for elderly people. I meant it.

9 thoughts on “This adorable old guy is my dad. And I may never see him again. Today I tell you why.

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