Norma Atteberry watched her parents live
and preach the principle, “Every person must give back.”
Taking the words to heart, Atterbury, chose a career in nursing and now serves as an
advocate for nursing home residents and their families.
In 1983, Atteberry’s beloved Aunt Gladys, who lived across
the street from her family, suffered a stroke and was told she needed to be in
a nursing home. In regular visits to the facility in Pensacola, Atteberry said
she observed lethal shortcomings in care given her aunt.
“There was not a day that I was there that I did not see something wrong,” she said. “It was horrendous.”
Atteberry took note of her aunt’s untreated 105 degree
fever, a kinked urinary catheter, and other failures. Aunt Gladys’ roommate,
also recovering from a stroke, boldly spoke out about what needed to be changed
at the home. In revenge, the staff often sprayed pesticides around her bed to
aggravate her severe allergies.
Although Aunt Gladys was moved to another facility within three months, she died before a year passed.
The experience changed the focus of Atteberry’s career.
“I said, ‘God, if you give me a chance to make a difference
in this, I will,” she told Florida Baptist Witness.
PARENTS Al and Florence Harrison, Norma Atteberry’s parents. Florence battled Parkinson’s disease for years.
A few years later, Atteberry was asked by Gov. Bob Martinez
to serve on Florida’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Council which assists in
resolving issues with long term care facilities and makes recommendations
regarding policies, regulations and legislation. She served on the council 13
years, and also became active in the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing
Home Reform, which she now serves as president of the Board of Directors.
Atteberry’s mother and father, John E. and Florence
Harrison, lived long enough to appreciate their daughter’s efforts on behalf of
the elderly. Her mother, who suffered with Parkinson’s disease, was able to
remain at home until her death in 1995. Her father, who died two years later,
had told his daughter: “More people should help older people. So many help
younger people, but they forget that frail elderly people need help.”
Far from forgetting, Atteberry, a mother of five and
grandmother of “five and half,” remains an advocate on the national stage for
compassionate long term care. Although she concedes perfect nursing homes are
“few and far between,” there are some where the residents are happy and their
“If you ask an older person, they will always say they’d
rather stay home, but if they have to go, it should be to a place that is
home-like with loving care givers,” she said.
WHITE?HOUSE?TOUR Norma Atteberry was on a White House tour during a D.C. visit for a NCCNHR Board Meeting.
Atteberry and the NCCNHR staunchly oppose the nursing home
lobbies’ well-funded efforts to de-regulate the industry. She is closely
watching Florida Senate Bill 1562 that would eliminate many inspections of
“This would be devastating to residents if this passes,” she
The NCCNHR is a “consumer voice” in legislatures instead of
just an industry voice when laws are being written and passed, she said. It
educates families about the rights of nursing home residents and maintains a
library of material of use to both residents and families. All the information
is available on the organization’s website www.nccnhr. For more, read the story.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is
dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing
home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke,
Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.
Posted on Wed, April 22, 2009
by Robert Carter