PARIS (AP) – The dull, muffled sounds in the background of the phone call filled Monette Hayoun with fear.
Was his 85-year-old severely disabled brother Meyer choking on his food? Was he slowly suffocating like the Holocaust survivor who died a few months earlier in another room in the nursing home, with a piece of breakfast baguette lodged in his throat?
Meyer Haiun died the next day, one of more than 14,000 deaths that tore apart nursing homes for France’s most vulnerable older adults when they were sealed to visitors during the peak of the coronavirus.
Three months later, the questions plague Monette: How did her brother die? Did he suffer? And, above all, who is responsible?
“All the questions I have about Meyer, maybe the truth is not as bad as I imagine,” she says. Still, she adds, “You can’t help but imagine the worst.”
As families return to nursing homes that first reopened for limited visits in April And more broadly this month, thousands no longer have mothers, fathers, grandparents, and siblings to hug and hug.
VIDEO: Afflicted with diphtheria and meningitis as a child, Meyer barely spoke and was unable to alert people when he was thirsty or hungry, leaving him dependent on continued attention.
With graves so cool that some still don’t have headstones, bereaved families across the country are increasingly demanding a reckoning, turning to lawyers to try to determine why nearly half of COVID-19’s nearly 30,000 deaths in France beat residents of nursing homes. The generations that came of age after World War I endured the next world conflict and helped rebuild the country.
Many houses had few, even no deaths. But others are emerging with their tattered reputation, having lost scores in their care. Increasingly, households face wrongful death lawsuits accusing them of negligence in care, skimping on protective equipment and personnel, and lying to families about how their loved ones died and the steps they took to prevent infections.
Because COVID-19 was particularly deadly for older adults, nursing homes across the world were quickly found on the front lines of the pandemic. Nursing home residents in the United States account for almost 1 in 10 of all coronavirus cases and more than a quarter of deaths In Europe, nursing home residents account for one third to almost two thirds of the deceased in many countries.
To prevent infection, many houses were sealed. In France, the government closed access to the country’s 7,400 medicinal facilities for the most dependent older adults on March 11, six days before putting the entire country locked up. But by then, the coronavirus was already beginning to take its toll.
A thick yellow file of complaints on the desk of Paris lawyer Fabien Arakelian is a measure of the fury of families determined to get answers. His first complaint was directed at a house that he said lost 40 of its 109 residents; the stack has only grown since then.
Arakelian lost her grandfather in a nursing home before the pandemic.
“Unlike these families, I was lucky to be able to accompany him to the end, give him a final kiss and say a final goodbye. They didn’t get it, and it can never be returned to them, “he says.” That’s why I’m fighting. ”
An urgent need for answers is also driving Olivia Mokiejewski. Among them: Why did the care home worker you saw sitting next to her grandmother when they were video chatting during the lockdown not wear a mask or gloves and also pass the phone from one person to another without disinfecting it?
Her grandmother, Hermine Bideaux, was rushed to the hospital 11 days later, after her worried granddaughter asked a family friend to be a doctor to allow her to visit her. The doctor said he found the 96-year-old man in a desperate, barely conscious, feverish, and severely dehydrated state. Diagnosed in the hospital with COVID-19, she held on for three days before dying on April 4.
Mokiejewski has filed a dangerous and involuntary manslaughter suit accusing Korian Bel Air’s home on the southwestern edge of Paris of failing to prevent the spread of the disease. That was followed by a lawsuit filed by the niece of an 89-year-old woman who sat with Mokiejewski’s grandmother during the video call and who died two days after her.
Noting that the allegations deserve to be analyzed, prosecutors in the Paris region accepted both the complaints and five other similar ones and handed them over to police investigators.
Korian, the industry’s market leader, says the residence is not to blame.
“The staff fought daily, day and night, to protect residents with a lot of courage and a lot of devotion,” said Emmanuel Daoud, a lawyer for the house.
Mokiejewski has established a support group for families seeking redress called Collective 9,471, named for the number of deaths in nursing homes on May 5, when the group was founded. She acknowledges that collecting evidence could be challenging.
“It all happened behind closed doors, among people with cognitive disorders,” she says. “They are perfect victims, perfect witnesses for this type of establishment. They have no memories. They are no longer sure. They are lost. Their friends are gone.
Arakelian’s latest lawsuit was filed this week on behalf of Monette Hayoun, alleging involuntary manslaughter and danger in the death of her brother on March 26 at the Amaraggi residence in Paris.
The Amaraggi director, contacted by phone, said she did not want to be summoned. The charitable foundation that manages the home did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.
In emails to the families of the residents, managers had recognized at least 19 deaths among their 80 residents in March and April. Meyer was one of the first to leave.
As a child, Meyer had contracted diphtheria and meningitis, and raging fevers damaged his brain. He had a knack for memory games and could recite birth dates and family phone numbers, but he could not alert people when he was thirsty or hungry. On the sliding scale used in France to measure dependency, Meyer received the GIR 1 rating, reserved for people in beds and wheelchairs who require continuous care.
When Amaraggi closed its doors in March, Monette told her other two brothers that Meyer would not survive without his daily visits from two outside assistants that the family had hired to keep him fed, hydrated, clean and clothed. On March 10, one of the brothers, Robert Haiun, a doctor, wrote to the managers of the home, asking for an exception to the non-visitor rule.
“The Amaraggi residence is permanently understaffed,” the brother wrote. “In this particularly delicate period, this understaffing is at risk of worsening as the workload increases for all staff and residents become fragile. By taking away this aid for lunch, the afternoon and evening snack that we have prepared for Meyer, Amaraggi is assuming a great responsibility that we cannot accept because this concerns our brother’s life. “
Meyer’s aides tried to gain access in the days that followed, but were turned down, the family says.
In closing, only Robert was able to use his medical condition to visit Meyer twice. The second visit filled her with despair: She felt that Meyer had the same exhausted look as her mother when she died at 105 in 2017.
Robert says the home doctor called the afternoon of Meyer’s death to say he suspected he was getting sick with COVID-19 and was leaving. But first, he promised to put Meyer on an IV drip because Robert was concerned that his brother was too weak to eat or drink and was becoming dehydrated.
About three hours later, the doctor called again: a nurse had found Meyer dead in his room.
Robert says that when he asked about the drip, “He said, ‘I gave the order but I don’t know if it was done.’
You are torn for taking legal action.
“It will be very difficult to demonstrate that there was clear and blatant negligence,” he says. “At best, we will prove negligence and what will solve that?”
The difficulty of obtaining information has already been evident: only on May 4, after repeated pleas from family members, the managers revealed that 19 residents had died, saying that they had previously withheld that information because “it seemed particularly disturbing and damaging to us to communicate these data to families. ”
The family of the 82-year-old Holocaust survivor who died of drowning last September has chosen not to file a lawsuit, dissuaded by the possibility of confronting the home operator: the Casip-Cojasor Foundation, headed by Eric de Rothschild, a child of The most famous banking dynasty in Europe.
The foundation has a long and proud history of assisting needy Jews, and Meyer Haiun’s parents were among those who benefited from his charity when they moved from Tunisia to France in the 1960s.
Philippe Chekroun, the son-in-law of the man who choked, said he felt “it would be useless for only two or three of us to face a machine, a steamroller like the Casip.”
“How can you go to trial against people like that, knowing that the person who controls all this is the Rothschild family?” he said. He asked that his father-in-law’s name not be published.
But Monette Hayoun cannot let him go: she feels that she betrayed the promise she made to her mother that she would always protect her brother.
A week after Meyer’s death, the family received a brief email from Amaraggi’s chief nurse, saying, “He didn’t call anyone and didn’t leave a message.”
That was not a comfort to his family: Meyer barely spoke and could not write.
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