Advocate for Nursing Home Patients Makes A Difference in Their Lives

Norma Atteberry watched her parents live and preach the principle, “Every person must give back.”

Taking the words to heart, Atterbury, chose a career in nursing and now serves as an advocate for nursing home residents and their families.

In 1983, Atteberry’s beloved Aunt Gladys, who lived across the street from her family, suffered a stroke and was told she needed to be in a nursing home. In regular visits to the facility in Pensacola, Atteberry said she observed lethal shortcomings in care given her aunt.

“There was not a day that I was there that I did not see something wrong,” she said. “It was horrendous.”

ATTEBERRY

Atteberry took note of her aunt’s untreated 105 degree fever, a kinked urinary catheter, and other failures. Aunt Gladys’ roommate, also recovering from a stroke, boldly spoke out about what needed to be changed at the home. In revenge, the staff often sprayed pesticides around her bed to aggravate her severe allergies.

Although Aunt Gladys was moved to another facility within three months, she died before a year passed. The experience changed the focus of Atteberry’s career.

“I said, ‘God, if you give me a chance to make a difference in this, I will,” she told Florida Baptist Witness.

 PARENTS Al and Florence Harrison, Norma Atteberry’s parents. Florence battled Parkinson’s disease for years.

Courtesy photo

PARENTS Al and Florence Harrison, Norma Atteberry’s parents. Florence battled Parkinson’s disease for years.

A few years later, Atteberry was asked by Gov. Bob Martinez to serve on Florida’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Council which assists in resolving issues with long term care facilities and makes recommendations regarding policies, regulations and legislation. She served on the council 13 years, and also became active in the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, which she now serves as president of the Board of Directors.

Atteberry’s mother and father, John E. and Florence Harrison, lived long enough to appreciate their daughter’s efforts on behalf of the elderly. Her mother, who suffered with Parkinson’s disease, was able to remain at home until her death in 1995. Her father, who died two years later, had told his daughter: “More people should help older people. So many help younger people, but they forget that frail elderly people need help.”

Far from forgetting, Atteberry, a mother of five and grandmother of “five and half,” remains an advocate on the national stage for compassionate long term care. Although she concedes perfect nursing homes are “few and far between,” there are some where the residents are happy and their care “phenomenal.”

“If you ask an older person, they will always say they’d rather stay home, but if they have to go, it should be to a place that is home-like with loving care givers,” she said.

 WHITE?HOUSE?TOUR Norma Atteberry was on a White House tour during a D.C. visit for a NCCNHR Board Meeting.

Courtesy photo

WHITE?HOUSE?TOUR Norma Atteberry was on a White House tour during a D.C. visit for a NCCNHR Board Meeting.

Atteberry and the NCCNHR staunchly oppose the nursing home lobbies’ well-funded efforts to de-regulate the industry. She is closely watching Florida Senate Bill 1562 that would eliminate many inspections of local facilities.

“This would be devastating to residents if this passes,” she said.

The NCCNHR is a “consumer voice” in legislatures instead of just an industry voice when laws are being written and passed, she said. It educates families about the rights of nursing home residents and maintains a library of material of use to both residents and families. All the information is available on the organization’s website www.nccnhr. For more, read the story.

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Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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