Archive for Friday, November 22, 2002

Son says he did the best he could for 76-year-old father

November 22, 2002


Police are investigating whether neglect at the hands of family members caused the death of an elderly Lawrence man.

âÂÂI took care of him the best that I could,â a teary-eyed Tim Harrell said. âÂÂEverything might not have turned out perfect like I wanted it to, but I did the best I could with him.âÂÂ

HarrellâÂÂs father, 76-year-old Henry Harrell, died Wednesday morning at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Family members took him there Nov. 7. By that time he was in critical condition, according to Lawrence Police.

âÂÂHis condition was such that he appeared to be mistreated,â Police spokesman Sgt. Mike Pattrick said.

Pattrick would not elaborate about Henry HarrellâÂÂs condition.

An adult protection service worker from the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services originally contacted police about the case. Detectives immediately began an investigation into Henry HarrellâÂÂs 43-year-old son and his 40-year-old daughter-in-law, the main caregivers.

âÂÂWe do periodic reports on mistreatment of dependent adults,â Pattrick said. âÂÂHowever, not to this severity. This individual has died.âÂÂ

Henry Harrell lived with his son and daughter-in-law at the Hampton Court Apartments, 1722 W. 24th St. An apartment manager said police showed up Monday with a warrant, asking to search the Harrellsâ second-floor apartment.

âÂÂI donâÂÂt believe the allegations,â assistant manager Jill Lewis said. âÂÂI know the family and they took care of âÂÂ'grandpaâ the best that they could, to the best of their ability.âÂÂ

Lewis said many of the Harrellsâ neighbors knew Henry and would watch him if his relatives were out.

âÂÂHe was never left alone, ever,â Lewis said. âÂÂThere was always someone there taking care of him around the clock.âÂÂ

Tim Harrell said he was among the busiest of the relatives.

âÂÂI took care of him for the better part of two years,â he said. âÂÂHe said he wanted to live with me, and I said, âÂÂ'OK, IâÂÂll take care of you, Dad.â He didnâÂÂt want to go into a rest home.âÂÂ

Difficult task

Advocates for the elderly say many people who decide to take on the burden of caring for an ailing relative at home arenâÂÂt prepared for the task.

âÂÂMost people donâÂÂt have the proper medical training,â said Deanne Bacco, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, a local nonprofit organization specializing in elder abuse. âÂÂWe provide one-on-one consultations with registered nurses, so caregivers can learn how to deal with the elderly and those who are frail.âÂÂ

The service is free, thanks to a grant from the Sunflower Foundation in Topeka, but Tim Harrell, like many untrained caregivers, was unaware of the services available.

âÂÂUnfortunately, Tim was not aware of the community help he could have gotten,â Lewis said. âÂÂIâÂÂm sure that if someone would have sat down and explained there are agencies out there to help, IâÂÂm sure he wouldâÂÂve gone for it. He would have done anything to help his dad. He loved his dad.âÂÂ

Investigation ongoing

Now criminal charges could be forthcoming, Pattrick said, noting that a report on the police investigation would be forwarded to the District AttorneyâÂÂs Office.

An autopsy was performed on Henry Harrell Wednesday afternoon, but as of Thursday police still didnâÂÂt have a cause of death.

âÂÂThe medical information plus the autopsy report will be able to determine how long the neglect had occurred,â Pattrick said.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney said she would not speculate on any possible criminal charges.

Generally, she said, mistreatment of a dependent adult was a misdemeanor unless it involved âÂÂinfliction of physical injury, unreasonable confinement or cruel punishment.â In those cases the crime is a felony.

ThereâÂÂs also a possibility of involuntary manslaughter charges against the caregivers because the alleged neglect resulted in a death.

Tim Harrell said such a charge would be unwarranted.

âÂÂBecause I took care of my father, now IâÂÂm getting the whole nine yards,â he said. âÂÂI may not have brought him in in time, like I should have, but itâÂÂs not right for them to treat me like some kind of horrible person.âÂÂ

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