When John Pribil, Jr. admitted his father to a North Miami assisted living facility, he insisted the home make one promise: His dad, a World Wat II veteran, needed to be closely watched to protect him from the ravages of Parkinsons disease.
But two months later, administrators at Grand Court Lakes left him alone in his room with no call bell, no phone, and no caregivers anywhere in sight. Before dawn on Oct. 5, 2005, a nurse from another building heard a horrifying sound: Pribil, a stocky man who had served a quarter-century in the Marine Corps and had fought at Okinawa, was crying for help. The nurse followed a trail of blood from a sewer grate to Pribils shattered body lying on the pavement.
He had plunged from a third-floor balcony perhaps hours earlier.
Though the Broward Medical Examiners Office ruled Pribils death an accident he died of blunt force injuries neither the state Department of Children & Families nor the Agency for Health Care Administration ever investigated it, and no one at the ALF was held responsible.
If it were up to me, Id shut the place down, and put everybody in jail, said Roxanne Kosberg, 51, John Pribil, Jr.s longtime girlfriend. As far as Im concerned, they killed Mr. Pribil.
In 2000, Pribil, who also fought in Korea for two years, had surgery to repair damage to a knee. He never really recovered. Three years later, he was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease, and, in the ensuing years, his wife, Lorraine, found it increasingly difficult to care for him.
I felt fortunate to find Grand Court Lakes, said his son, John, 62. They gave us the tour. They had a nice cafeteria; the lunches looked good.
Family members feared Pribil might be unhappy at the home because other residents didnt watch John Wayne movies on a communal television. But when they went to visit him, he seemed happy and well-cared for.
Though he wandered and often got confused like most elders with dementia Pribil had no way to contact caregivers for help. Bothered by frequent false alarms, administrators removed the telephones, call buttons and intercoms from the Alzheimers wing. Colleen Cobb, the homes nursing director, testified that pendant alarms offered to residents were worthless because the Alzheimers patients would press the buttons constantly.
Pribils family said they were assured that two aides would be present on the Alzheimers floor throughout the night and Cobb, testified in a sworn statement that one of the caregivers should have been stationed just outside Pribils door. The residents with dementia will wander, and we protected them against that, Cobb said.
They told me there would be two nurses not one at all times, 24 hours a day so that if something happened theyd be there to take care of it, said Pribils son, 62.
But Pribil had no protection that October morning, when both third-floor aides failed to show up for work.
In her deposition, Cobbs lawyer refused to let her answer any questions about why the dementia wing was left that night with no staff on duty.
At 6:30 a.m. that morning, John Pribil, Jr. received a call: His father had fallen at the ALF, and had been taken to Jackson Memorial Hospitals trauma center. But he was not at all prepared for what he saw. His dad had not just fallen hed dropped from the third-floor balcony and was totally shattered.
The doctors said the injuries hed sustained were non-survivable, Pribil said. His insides had totally exploded. All they could do is keep him comfortable.
Even years later, family members question how Pribil could have flung himself from a balcony. His body shook violently from the Parkinsons disease, and he needed help just to feed himself and climb in and out of his wheelchair.
It never made sense to me how Dad could get over that railing, Pribil, Jr. said.
And there was one last indignity: Nobody from the staff ever called to say they were sorry, said Pribils son. Not one word from anybody.