Leo was a great artist and musician. He met Ansel Adams at Yosemite and several other famous people in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was big on astrology, loved meeting people and enjoyed watching movies and reading books.
Prior to moving to Lake Mead City in 2006, Leo worked for a church in Oakland. He inherited a vacant lot up the road from my old place and while I told him about our hot summers, he was determined to retire here. Many of his belongings were lost a year or two later when his van burned up on the way back from a trip to cool off, but he sure knew how to collect “stuff.” It didn’t take long until he acquired several old campers and a motor home — his acre filled up fast.
When Leo was was 7 years old he had a bicycle accident, leaving him with serious brain injury. He could not fill out forms and I helped him sign up for social security, Medicare, AHCCCS, etc. He was a bit paranoid about dealing with the government. I also paid his bills for him online since he didn’t write checks or use credit cards. Even worse, Leo couldn’t use a cell phone.
In 2008 I got him a cell phone and I paid for a year of service, but he couldn’t learn how to use it. Typical for Leo, he just recently bought a smartphone and several neighbors tried to teach him how to use the phone, but he couldn’t answer or make calls. He would have loved to use the internet, but couldn’t access it. Incredibly, he knew a lot about electronics and he had even repaired electronics. I know it makes no sense …
Leo rarely missed a High Desert Gardening Club meeting. While his gardening was limited to transplanting willows, he was always interested in learning something new and he enjoyed getting out and meeting people. Most of all, he loved the PIZZA John Ford often ordered when we met at Canyon’s End.
Leo often rode his bike around LMC, with his giant sombrero and a dust mask. Overall, he was doing quite well. I handled his doctor appointments (since he didn’t have a phone) and he had high blood pressure for a while, but nothing serious.
Several years ago Leo was in the Meadview Community Church choir. I think it was last year when he joined the Mormon Church and he was so excited about being baptized. He even cleaned up his lot!
That’s how Leo was, he got really into it when he found a new thing to do. Often you couldn’t stop him talking about a book he read or a movie he watched — until something else caught his interest.
I was shocked when one of his friends called to tell me that he was afraid that he’d find Leo dead because he wouldn’t go to the doctor. Apparently, Leo hadn’t eaten much since a few days after the 4th of July and he wouldn’t come out of his camper when visitors stopped by.
I took Leo to KRMC on 7/23 and I expected them to find a tumor or some other serious problem since he’d been vomiting every time he ate. However, they diagnosed him with gastroenteritis (they thought it was a virus) and dehydration and sent him back home around 9 pm. He looked a bit better (after 2 bags of IV fluids), but I really think they should have at least kept him over night and monitored him until he got well enough to eat without vomiting or diarrhea. After all, I had to get a wheelchair to get him in and out of the ER. Leo was so weak, he could barely stand.
The people at KRMC were all very nice, but they wouldn’t let him drink any water prior to doing their tests. And that’s a good reason, but nobody offered him anything to drink AFTER the tests. Leo was not the “demanding” type, so he waited until I came back from my errands around 9 pm. I’m sure that if anyone had asked him whether he’d like something, he would have asked for water. It was such a hot day, riding to town in a truck without A/C, he was dehydrated, yet nobody gave him anything to drink!
I was relieved that Leo would be fine, took him to Safeway to buy some food and water and Leo ate on the ride home like he hadn’t eaten in a month. I told him not to eat a lot since he wasn’t used to eating and he kept telling me how much better he was feeling. Still, he could only walk about 10 feet from the truck to a chair and had to rest. I wanted to get the groceries into his camper, but he assured me that he would be fine. It was 11 pm and not too hot anymore, so I thought he’d be ok.
The next morning Leo had diarrhea again, the groceries and water were sitting in the sun and I realized that Leo needed serious help. We don’t have an extra bedroom and I decided that he needed to go to an assisted living facility or back to the hospital.
I spent four hours on the phone. First I called KRMC and I was transferred to social services. I explained Leo’s medical situation, that he lived in a camper with no running water, no electric and no phone.
The social worker told me that she could only refer him to the Kingman homeless shelter.
Leo was 72 years old and he needed help.
The bitch hung up on me when I asked for her name!
I searched the internet for any service that could help, made numerous calls including to veterans organizations — nobody would step up. Leo had joined the Army and some asshole made them lay on the cold ground until half the unit got pneumonia. Leo was so sick they discharged him.
Finally I remembered “elder protection”, as Leo had called them. Adult Protective Services was the only agency that cared. I was on the phone for quite a while with a very nice lady, I answered numerous questions and Leo qualified. She assured me that a local rep would work his case within 48 hours. That was Friday afternoon 7/24.
Every day we checked on Leo and brought him food and he claimed to be doing better — but he never opened the camper door. Incredibly, somebody from Adult Protective Services actually stopped by Leo’s place the following Tuesday. She was going to research his eligibility for assisted living. Leo said that she was very positive and I was so happy to hear that, and amazed she actually made it out here within two working days as they had promised when I called them on Friday afternoon.
On Wednesday we had our gardening club meeting and two of our members each brought him a pizza (no coordination). Thursday afternoon we got the call that Leo had been found dead.
I had hoped that Adult Protective Services would get Leo into an assisted living place quickly. I was already planning on bringing him back out to visit in fall, once it cooled off.
Leo never called any friends or relatives and never received any calls. I heard that an older brother was located in California. [8/24/15 update: They had an address, but have yet to locate the brother as the house is vacant.]
We have no idea what’s going to happen with his body or his “stuff.” I’ve been looking through thousands of pictures for the pics with Leo posing in front of his about 7′ x 12′ Monet that was displayed at the Lake Mead City Music Hall for several months a few years back, but I can’t find them. He sure could paint!
So this is the short story of Leo and how old people in Mohave County are abandoned to die alone. I have been unable to work myself up to getting the social worker at the hospital fired and to contact Adult Protective Services to see what would have happened if Leo had lived a little longer. How long does it take to get someone in Leo’s situation into an assisted living facility?
On a related note, Jay Fleming in Dolan Springs just started the new blog Life and Death in Dolan Springs about the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District and he also has the blog Pain Crisis in Mohave County, and America. It’s good to see that there are people who care enough to actually try to DO something.
There is nothing we can do for Leo, but there are many others just like him.