80-year-old Jerry Ellingsen was lost and wandering at the Denver airport with his dog when an airline supervisor called the police to help figure out where he came from. Turns out, his daughter had abandoned him.
Being lost was scary as a child but we knew that our parents would be looking for us. However, what about when you’re an elderly man who can’t remember where they are from or anything about their family and you don’t know if anyone is looking for you? The experience can be traumatizing.
An 80-year-old man from Fort Myers, Florida was found abandoned at Denver’s massive airport with his small dog. Upon further investigation, it was found that he has Alzheimer’s disease and that his daughter put him on a one-way flight because she was done taking care of him.
Jerry Ellingsen didn’t know where he was or why he was at the airport when he was found. When the Police tried to get in touch with his wife and daughter, neither of them agreed to pick him up. So, the cops were forced to call an ambulance to send him to a local hospital, which is legally required to take him in.
"I think the thoughtfulness is that this isn’t somebody else's problem. It’s all of our problems. And as we age we need to better prepare(d), and we need to make sure our parents are prepared to address this possible challenge,” said Doug Muir, who oversees behavior health at Porter Adventist Hospital, to 9News.
“At the end of the day, this is our loved ones that we are talking about,” Muir said. “So, as a society and community, we need to demand better outcomes.”
A United Airlines supervisor had called the police after realizing that Jerry possibly had Alzheimer’s. The supervisor also called up his daughter, who had checked him into the flight.
The daughter, Pamela Roth of Fort Myers, told the airline employee she was “done with her father” and did not want to be contacted again, the police report said.
“He was very confused about general details of his life to include where he was at, where he was coming from, who he was coming to visit and his family members’ names,” one Denver police officer said in a report.
The police had a hard time finding out how Jerry was abandoned. Eventually, he ended up staying at the local hospital for six months.
Pamela wanted Jerry to live with his wife Jackie Ellingsen of Highlands Ranch but did not give her much warning before sending him over. Only 24 hours before the flight, Pamela texted saying, “My dad and Corky [the dog] will arrive on a flight in Denver tomorrow afternoon." Jackie refused to pick him up. They had been estranged.
“I have no use for him. I mean a man that wants to kill me, come on. I don’t want to live with him,” Jackie told the police. Pamela also told Jackie, “If you need to drop my dad at a homeless shelter, it’s fine. I just want him to have a roof over his head. Please.”
The estranged wife agreed to take in the dog but not the man, so the police sent him to the University of Colorado Hospital.
He is not the first at-risk adult forced to live in a hospital after being abandoned by their families. There are 113 individuals like Jerry living in Denver’s hospitals. Most of these individuals come from homes that no longer have the money or are burned out to give anymore care.
“I think about the abandoned ones and it’s really hard,” said Stephanie Luck, a Lutheran Hospital caseworker. “I don’t want to ever feel abandoned in my life. I hope that every day when I leave work, that I did the best for that patient.”
Pamela was not charged with abuse against the elderly because there wasn’t enough evidence. Jerry’s sister also doesn’t know where he was taken but said that he could be under the care of a private company in Colorado.
“I cannot believe they did that. I’m horrified. I’m disappointed that somebody can even be that low to do that to their father,” Kari McConnell, Jerry’s niece, said.
Ironically, Pamela works for a company that specializes in senior home care. Jerry’s sister-in-law, Judy Ellingsen, thinks Pamela should be punished. “Under the circumstance and what’s her line of work with the elderly, she should be punished,” Judy said. “I’m sorry. Nobody does that to anybody.”
The death of a family member can impact us in real and measurable ways. While it’s clear that one feels the pain and sadness caused by this loss, it’s now indisputable that loss affects us deeply and permanently.