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Our throwaway elderly

Published: Monday, July 15, 2013 12:06 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, July 15, 2013 12:29 p.m. CST

July 3, 2013, 12:40 p.m.  Regency Care Center, Norwalk.  I sit alone, next to the bed of Bob Queener, my friend of four long years.  I say “long,” because what he has been through with state government bureaucracy, the courts and ineptness on the part of many “health care” providers made it an eternity for this man with few needs or expectations.

As I sat and watched his deep, slow and deliberate breathing, and fearful his end way near, I was taken back to our many experiences.  From the fall of 2010 to the recent past, as his court appointed Guardian and friend, I would check Bob out of whatever Des Moines care facility he had been incarcerated in, and take him to coffee at Caribou, or to my home acreage where he enjoyed a cup of coffee and talking to my wife.  He even asked to work in the flower beds and pick-up sticks around the yard.  He was no stranger to work, and frankly, it was tough to keep ahead of him.  Yet, here he was, out on leave from what he referred to as his “cage.”

When Bob was removed from his home in Des Moines by several police officers and DHS employees, it was based on an unverified allegation of utter nonsense.  Later, when the allegation was proven wrong, it made no difference, for Bob had already been confined to a care facility.  “Guilty until proven innocent,” seems to be the norm with our disposable elderly, but then DHS used their “dementia” card, and kept him confined.  A court appointed temporary Conservator had Bob’s furniture and belongings removed from his house and garage, and did so without a required court order.  His personal items, including his Korean War paratrooper pins, service ribbons and patches, along with his uniform and family photos and memorabilia were taken to flea markets, good will stores, given to neighbors or sold for pennies on the dollar.

Over the ensuing years, we were in court many times, only to receive the age-old excuse of “confidentiality.”  Sovereign immunity for the state!  “The King can do no wrong!”  Yet, a man’s life had been destroyed, and he was like a caged animal, wanting only to be allowed to return to his little home, and live out his life tending to his own business……bothering no one, as had been the case prior to DHS receiving a call and acting with no proof of violation.

Bob Queener’s name has graced the pages of the Des Moines Register many times.  His case became a rallying cry for health care inconsistencies for the elderly around the nation.  Many publications related his case across America.  His niece and Conservator, Cheri Jensen of Altoona, and I worked together to make Bob’s life bearable.  Yet, we were always fighting the “system.” Others, within the “power structure” of the state, did nothing to help, but rather abrogated their responsibility of providing a healthy, dignified and happy environment for this simple, yet amazing man.  I didn’t even know Bob before being advised of his situation.  To this day I can’t believe that anyone, let alone the probate court of Polk County and several employees of the Department of Human Services (Culver administration), would allow such degrading treatment.  Former State Representative Geri Huser of Altoona was his attorney, and she, along with other members of the Skinner Law Firm, provided countless hours of Pro Bono (free) legal assistance along the way.  Geri spent hundreds of hours, attempting by all legal means to reverse the wrongdoing that Bob had suffered at the hands of the state. 

At the care facility on July 3rd, I had been advised that Bob was in a coma.  Yet, as I sat there watching him breathe, and contemplating his demise, all of a sudden his breathing audibly increased.  I was looking directly at him as he opened his eyes, looked into mine, and said, “Dennis.”  He then closed his eyes and was unresponsive to my words.

On July 5th, Bob Queener passed away quietly in his sleep.  I attended and spoke at his funeral in Knoxville on Thursday, July 11.  My admonition to the scant number of those present was to rejoice in the fact that Bob finally had peace.  The time for mourning was during the past four years when everything he had was taken, including his lifetime savings and his precious little home and garage, and every earthly possession he had.  That was his world, and it was destroyed by bureaucrats who acted based on an allegation proven to be absolutely false.

Issues of this nature appear to be quite common in Iowa.  I have a file of letters, most seeking my involvement and assistance with someone’s parents in a similar situation.  Another came by mail just this last week.  Woe be it to any society that fails to care for and dignify our elderly.  We all shall be in that position someday, and how they are treated by government and private enterprise says much about the system.  Rest assured, I will seek understanding and change at the statehouse, but I need the help of more legislators to make it happen.

Questions or comments? Call Sen. Black at (515) 975-8608.

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