Family: Incredible Life Ends in Horrifying Nursing Home Death

Rebecca Zeni's cause of death was 'septicemia due to crusted scabies'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2018 10:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – To understand just how extreme Rebecca Zeni's condition allegedly became at the LaFayette, Ga., nursing home where she resided, read this quote: "There was a conversation at this nursing home with a healthcare provider about being careful about touching Ms. Zeni's hand for fear that it might fall off her body." That's what a lawyer for Zeni's family alleges occurred at Shepherd Hills Nursing Home, where Zeni moved in 2010 and died in 2015. Her death was determined to be "septicemia due to crusted scabies," or, as 11Alive translates, "millions of parasitic mites essentially ate her alive over several months or possibly years." The CDC explains that scabies is caused by mites burrowing into the skin and laying eggs; the mites can live there for as long as two months. Crusted scabies is a more severe form, but it's treatable.

Zeni's family alleges, however, that state health officials never made a visit to the facility following reports of a scabies outbreak at Shepherd Hills (they aren't required to by law), and a forensic pathologist tasked with reviewing Zeni's autopsy for 11Alive estimated there were hundreds of millions of mites in her body and said the death could possibly be characterized as "homicide by neglect." Medical Daily explains that many mites could cause an itch so severe that "non-stop scratching" can result in sepsis. The nursing home is owned by PruittHealth, which responded to the pending suit against it by denying "that it is a medical or healthcare provider" and therefore is not liable. As for Zeni, her family says her life had been a dream: The one-time model worked in a naval yard during World War II and, later, at a Chicago TV station. (Read more nursing homes stories.)

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