A woman that the state has confined to a Fort Worth nursing center for the past two months may soon be allowed to go home if family members can convince a judge that Ethel Henry will receive suitable care.
Doctors have reported to the courts that Ethel Henry, 83, suffers from dementia. However her husband of 67 years, Donald Henry, who drives more than 50 miles a day to visit his wife, has argued that her dementia is mild and together they are capable of managing their own affairs.
In December, Adult Protective Services removed Ethel Henry from the Cleburne apartment she shared with her husband of 67 years, saying no one was monitoring her medications. She was eventually placed at Cityview Care Center, a skilled nursing facility in southwest Fort Worth.
“To me, she’s been imprisoned,” Donald Henry said. “She can’t leave. She can’t go outside. She’s not doing too well.”
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On Thursday, the court appointed Ethel Henry’s grandson, Zachary Griffin, as her temporary guardian. Griffin, 37, will be able to make decisions for Ethel Henry, including where she lives, pending the approval of Judge Steve McClure of Johnson County Court at Law 2.
Griffin will also have to report to the courts periodically concerning her well-being.
Henry said he has been trying to get his wife returned to his care ever since the state took her away. Henry said he plans to move from their Cleburne apartment on March 15. He said for now, he’ll move into a trailer on a farm in Cleburne.
‘She’s being mistreated’
Henry said he has long been taking care of the medical needs for his wife, a cancer survivor who is in the early stages of dementia and who has suffered from chronic pain for more than 45 years. The state is not doing as good a job of taking care of her medical needs as he did, Henry said.
“She’s being mistreated and they are accusing me of abuse and neglect,” Henry said.
Sixteen friends and relatives were present at the Johnson County Courthouse on Thursday to support the Henrys, but Ethel Henry remained at Cityview.
Ethel Henry suffered from mental and physical impairments that prevented her from attending the hearing, her court-appointed attorney, Rita Papajohn, said.
Family and friends say their next step is to get together with the lawyers involved and see what type of living arrangements can be made that will satisfy the courts.
“They have been together for so long, they do not do well when they are apart,” Griffin said from the witness stand. “She was taken before anything was discussed with the family. There are options that can leave them together where they can enjoy the rest of their lives. Family, neighbors are willing to look in on her but this whole thing happened before anyone could do anything.”
Taken by state on Dec. 11
Henry said that on Dec. 10, 2015, his wife began complaining of stomach pains and feeling faint, so he took her to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Cleburne, where she stayed the night.
When he returned the next day to pick up his wife, Henry said hospital staff wanted to keep her another night. But Henry said his wife wanted to go home and the hospital staff began preparing her discharge paperwork.
As he parked his car at the hospital’s entrance to pick up his wife, Henry said he was met by Cleburne police.
Cleburne police say officers went to the hospital on Dec. 11 because Henry had threatened hospital and Adult Protective Services staff, according to Detective Kelly Summey, Cleburne police spokeswoman. The emergency order also said that Henry has threatened to shoot and harm APS, hospital and nursing home staff.
APS can obtain permission from the court, known as an emergency order for protective services, to remove an elderly person from a life-threatening situation — regardless of whether that person wants to be removed.
Henry said he truly believed that his wife would be allowed to return to their home on Feb. 20, because an extension on her removal had expired on Feb/ 19.
“When I said I wanted to take her home, Cityview staff told me if I tried they would call the police,” Henry said.
Administrators with Cityview Care Center also declined to comment on the case, saying they are restrained from commenting by federal law.
Frustrated an angry, he left. But his wife remains at Cityview.
Doctor says she’s not in danger
On Tuesday, Henry said his wife was served with court documents summoning her to Thursday’s hearing and listing her ailments, which included severe dementia, recurrent falls, abnormal gait, incontinence, chronic pain syndrome from bladder surgery and a history of cancer.
John Daramola, a Cleburne physician, wrote in a report to the court that Ethel Henry suffered from progressive dementia and her husband also suffered from dementia. Daramola did not return calls to his office seeking comment.
“We were never told of any deficiency, so we never had time to address them or correct them,” Henry said.
A box is checked in Daramola’s assessment states that Ethel Henry is not suffering from abuse, neglect or exploitation to a degree that it presents a threat to her.
But in the emergency order authorizing her removal, the court found there was sufficient cause to believe that abuse or neglect presented an immediate threat to Ethel Henry.
Henry said he is confused by the inconsistencies.
“I’ve never been checked for or diagnosed with dementia,” Henry said. “How can they get away with telling these lies?”
‘I will keep fighting this’
Donald and Ethel were married when he was 16 and she was 15 and have been together ever since, Henry said. They were separated for five months right after they were married, while Henry was attending welding school in the military. Other than that, they have not been apart for more than a few hours, Henry said.
Henry said he trusts his grandson to handle his wife’s affairs.
“But after everything is said and done and back to normal, I will keep fighting this,” Henry said. “I will fight this in the highest courts in the land.”
According to the attorney Henry hired, Daren R. Van Slyke, this will not be the last hearing in the matter of Ethel Henry, and he said he hopes the situation can be resolved amicably.
Slyke said all the allegations made in the petition for removal are moot now that Griffin has been appointed Ethel Henry’s guardian.
“I want to make sure my client understands what the state is alleging,” Van Slyke said. “... They are not saying he is a horrible person.”