May 22, 2019

Retirement village resident dead for 12 days before anyone noticed

Richard Giese lay dead for 12 days. Asking residents to pay $6 a day to be checked is over the top.

A renowned former New Zealand Symphony Orchestra musician lay dead for 12 days in his Wellington retirement village unit before anyone noticed.

Richard Giese died of a heart attack last year, and his former wife – Myra Giese cannot understand why he was not found for so long. A coroner’s hearing into Mr Giest’s death commenced yesterday.

The retirement village does checks on residents for $6 a day but Mr Giese, 85, had not requested the service.

“My nightmare is that someone might have a fall or a stroke and be lying there impaired for weeks,” Myra Giese said.

Mr Giese lived in an independent apartment at the Rita Angus Retirement Village. He still walked to the shops, went to his own doctor, and practised his flute every day. He was last seen when he visited his doctor on 22nd February.

Mrs Giese said she was thankful that it looked as if he had died immediately.

She had spoken to him on 23rd February and he had mentioned that he was having difficulty breathing. He made a phone call the next day but was not seen or heard from again.

A neighbour noticed his lights were on all day and she had not heard him play for a week. She told village staff on 8th March and police were called.

Mrs Giese said she was shocked when she received a death certificate that said Mr Giese died some time between 18th February and 8th March. The vagueness of the date led her to ring the coroner.

“I cannot understand how someone could be not missed for that long a period,” she told coroner Ian Smith at an inquest in Wellington yesterday.

She found it hard to believe that no- one had noticed his mail box was not emptied and that no-one had checked him. “I had assumed it would be part of the service.”

Susan Bowness, North Island regional manager for Ryman Healthcare, which runs Rita Angus and 22 other villages, said residents were able to request daily checks, for a fee of $6 a day. Mr Giese had never asked for such checks, and it appeared his death was sudden.

Ms Bowness said the company was not required to check on its independent residents. “It needs to be understood that they are truly independent – they only get the services they request.”

Newswarped thinks that putting price on a basic check like ‘is someone still alive’ is a good money spinner. A retirement village, even for its ‘independent’ apartments should have a duty of care to have some sort of check system if someone has not been seen for a few days.

Any reasonable person would consider that some sort of basic checking system would be part of the deal for a retirement village. To put that in the list of ‘optional’ extra’s is just plain profit taking but I guess that is the way that our fabulous ‘user pays’ world works these days.