Family Blames Veteran's Death on Neglect - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: Veterans Home

Family Blames Veteran's Death on Neglect

Charles Compton with daughter-in-law Debbie Compton Charles Compton with daughter-in-law Debbie Compton
(Story created: 6/22/07)

State inspectors were supposed to be making sure that veterans were getting the care they deserved.

That followed a NewsChannel 5 investigation into conditions at Tennessee State Veterans Home in Murfreesboro.

Now, one family says their veteran still died. They say it was neglect.

This is how Debbie Compton likes to remember her father-in-law.

"I called him dad," she tells NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Jennifer Kraus.

Her photos show Charles Compton earlier this year -- before he moved into the Tennessee State Veterans Home. He weighed a healthy 180 pounds.

But just five months later, other shocking photos show how he'd lost 50 pounds while living at the state-run nursing home for vets. He had turned into just skin and bones.

"He was a veteran who served his country and this is how they treated him," she says.

Charles Compton had been a gunner in the U.S. Army -- a decorated soldier who fought in World War II.

More recently he'd developed Alzheimer's Disease, and his family thought the Tennessee State Veterans Home could give him the care he needed.

Now they believe it actually played a role in his death.

"Every time I went in, there was feces under his finger nails, on his hands," she recalls.

Debbie Compton says her father-in-law was left in his bed -- heavily medicated, unwashed and unchanged.

And his medical records, she says, are often contradictory -- even incomplete. In fact, July 31st of this year to August 4th, there is absolutely nothing written in his chart -- a five-day gap Compton finds appalling.

"I just wonder if anyone really knew what was going on or actually even was checking on him."

But what upsets Compton most is how her father-in-law wasted away to virtually nothing -- right before the nursing home staff's eyes -- while his chart says the staff was supposed to make sure his weight stayed at 180 pounds.

"They have documentation in there that he's losing weight but no one ever did anything about it," she says.

When the family visited in July, they noticed he was looking thinner.

What they didn't know, but medical records now show: He'd stopped eating. He dropped to a mere 130 pounds.

"He can't speak out now, because he's not here," she says. "But this needs to stop."

State Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville, has been an outspoken critic of the veterans home ever since our NewsChannel 5 investigation first brought to light allegations of neglect at the home earlier this summer.

"My concern is how do we keep these sorts of things from continuing," Norris says.

Yet, as state monitors were supposed to be inside the home ensuring that residents were getting proper care, Charles Compton was slowly wasting away and dying.

"It's very unsettling," Norris adds. "It's disquieting. It's discomforting. It's disgusting. There are more questions than answers here and the Comptons are entitled to answers -- and So is the General Assembly."

Debbie Compton says, "I hope the government does something about this. It needs to end. These are men that have served our country. They do not deserve to be treated like this. No one deserves to be treated like this."

Norris has just sent a letter to state lawmakers calling this a shameful situation. He says if laws need to be passed to improve conditions at the facility, he's ready to introduce the legislation in January.

The state is set to open another nursing home for veterans in East Tennessee next month. Norris says that, if the state can't run the nursing home in Murfreesboro, he doesn't think they shouldn't try to open another. 

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