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Elderly Utah man moved from condemned home to care facility

Published February 9, 2013 6:03 pm

Levan • 91-year-old's living conditions had sparked debate about senior care.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An elderly man whose deplorable living conditions sparked controversy — and a community effort to keep him alive — has been moved from his condemned home in Levan to an assisted living facility in Nephi.

Sometime in late January, Paul Mangelson tried to deliver food to 91-year-old Klarence Meldrum, a veteran who had refused to leave his house. When Mangelson arrived at the crumbling house beside a highway, he discovered that Meldrum had taken a turn for the worse.

"He wouldn't sit up and eat any of his meals," Mangelson said. "The other thing was, he had a bad cough and he just seemed like he was going downhill."

Meldrum's condition had been deteriorating for months, prompting neighbors to deliver food, water and heaters. But when he stopped eating, the community group decided it was time for more intervention, Mangelson said. Meldrum was removed from the home and is now living at the Heritage Hills Rehabilitation and Care Center.

Meldrum wasn't moved earlier because neighbors and family members believed he wanted to stay in the home until he died. He had strongly protested during past attempts to move him, and tried to escape when he was taken to a hospital for a checkup.

During that checkup, a doctor determined he was mentally competent. So neighbors felt they had no right to take him from the home.

But his living conditions — little interaction with other people, being confined to his bed, and the general squalor of the home, where he had lived his entire life — prompted debate in the community over how to care for him while respecting his decision.

Mike Royce, who with Mangelson was part of the group that delivered Meldrum's meals, said the elderly man's condition worsened last month, some time after his story was published in The Tribune. Meldrum was always a recluse, Royce said, but had become even more lethargic and unresponsive to visitors.

"Now we had somewhere between a medical necessity and a medical emergency," Royce said, adding that in recent months he wasn't sure how often Meldrum got out of bed, if at all.

A family member traveled to Levan to assess the situation and change Meldrum's bedding. According to Royce, as she and other women peeled back Meldrum's many layers of soiled blankets, it became obvious that he was not bathing or changing his clothes.

After Meldrum was removed from the bed, a local EMT drove him to the hospital in Nephi.

According to Mangelson, Meldrum was covered with sores. He said they looked like bedsores, but doctors described them as something else.

"They were sores like your clothing was stuck to your skin," he explained. "He wore his clothes all the time."

Meldrum remained in the hospital for "five or six days," Royce said. During that time he underwent physical therapy as well.

"He could not walk because he had been in a bed so long," Royce added.

Meldrum was then moved to the care center in Nephi, where he remained as of Friday. A receptionist at the center said she could not provide any information about him.

But by all available accounts, Meldrum is adjusting relatively well to life outside his Levan home. During a recent visit, Mangelson said he sat with Meldrum and brought him a glass of milk. Meldrum sipped half the milk through a straw and then dozed off, Mangelson said.

At one point during the visit, Meldrum described the care center as "tolerable," a notable change in attitude from previous attempts to get him treatment, Mangelson said.

Royce said Meldrum is "still not house broke, he still swears like a drunken sailor," but is doing better in the care center. Royce said he was told by Meldrum's relatives that they would not send him back to the home in Levan.

The move also has quelled controversy in the community. Part-time Levan resident Dennis Gardner, who said he wanted to add plumbing and basic improvements to Meldrum's home in 2012, has called community efforts to help Meldrum inadequate.

But Gardner said Friday that he was pleased Meldrum is out of the condemned house and receiving constant care. Royce and Mangelson expressed similar sentiments, saying that Meldrum's improved living conditions mean he may be around for a long time.

"Who knows how long he'll live?" Mangelson said. "He'll probably outlive us all."

jdalrymple@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jimmycdii

A community rallies

O Before Klarence Meldrum was moved to a care facility, a group of neighbors took turns visiting and bringing him food. His living conditions forced the community to grapple with issues stemming from his age and the squalor in which he lived. > bit.ly/levanman