One horrible night changed the Quandt family's life forever
Published: Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 9:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 9:19 p.m.
Paul Quandt grew up as one of 10 kids in a family getting by in Depression-era Indianapolis.
He joined the Navy and fought in the Korean War, where he earned commendations and suffered injuries that left him with the designation of disabled veteran.
A Gainesville resident since 1979, Quandt, 78, was treated at the VA Medical Center here at various times for ailments including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
While he remained active and alert, sometimes using an electric scooter to get around his Blues Creek neighborhood — usually carrying his beloved chihuahua Lily — he and his family eventually realized he would need some assistance.
Quandt's son, also named Paul, said the VA suggested that his father hire a home health-care aide to help with chores and errands.
It's a step that is becoming more common as America's population ages and people remain reluctant to leave their homes and give up their independence.
Inherent with this burgeoning industry, however, is a concern: Just how much do the families know about the people they are inviting into their loved ones' homes?
About four years ago, Paul Quandt Jr. said, the VA made arrangements with a Gainesville franchise of Comfort Keepers for someone to care for his father.
The national company says it goes beyond the state requirements in background checks on employees, and Quandt said there were no major problems.
“They would try to have the same person as best they could come and see him,” he said. “They would come in three days a week for four hours. He would have them run errands, do his grocery shopping, change the linens on his bed, clean the kitchen — whatever he needed them to do.
“Some he liked a lot, some he didn't like so much. If he couldn't rely on them, they would change the person as best they could.”
Family members called the elder Quandt daily and often visited him, bringing him food, taking him on outings and running errands.
Paul Quandt Jr. was on just such an errand on Jan. 9.
“He called and said he needed a few things from the drug store,” Quandt said. “I had been to his house about 9 o'clock.''
Just a few hours later, the Quandt family's world fell apart.
One shock, then another
“Having the Gainesville Police Department knock on your door at 1 o'clock in the morning is never a good thing,” Quandt said.
“Our daughter wasn't home that night either, so that was the first thought. The dogs were barking, and as I'm walking down the hall ... all I can think of is that our daughter's dead,” said his wife, Beverly Quandt.
But the police had come to tell them that Paul's father had been severely beaten in a home-invasion robbery. He would die on Jan. 18 from brain injuries.
That shock was followed by another: One of the suspects had once worked in his house as a Comfort Keepers aide.
Maranda Joy Martin, 22, had a stellar record and passed all the background checks, said Comfort Keepers owner Lynn Domenech.
Police said it was through Martin's association with the elder Quandt that he was targeted. She reportedly told police the crime was to be just a robbery but that her cousin, Austin Mark Jones, 22, of Fort White, began beating the disabled man while they were tying him up.
After being left for dead, Quandt rang the doorbell of his next-door neighbor's home at 11:48 p.m. He was in his motorized scooter and bloody.
While he was still able to communicate, Quandt told his neighbor that a man and a woman wearing masks had come into his home, cut him and beat him after binding him with tape. He was taken to Shands at the University of Florida, where he lingered for days before succumbing to his injuries.
Martin and Jones have been charged with murder. Beverly and Paul Quandt did not want to talk about Martin specifically out of concern for jeopardizing the criminal case.
Beverly did mention a strange twist that awful night. Jones, who was captured after a police chase that resulted in a crash, had been taken by paramedics to Shands.
“The most bizarre thing, and there is nothing you can do about it, is because the guy who did this was in a car wreck, he was two doors down (in the emergency room),” she said.
“GPD was so wonderful — they let us know that right away. It allowed us to be respectful of them, to not bother them, because there were some emotions,” Beverly Quandt said.
“Literally, I am standing there talking to the nurse and they wheel this guy by to take him to the jail. I didn't say anything.”
The whole experience has left the family reeling, said Paul Quandt.
“You know people grieve. You know the range of emotions people are going to feel. But it's just not real to you,” Paul Quandt said.
“This is the first time in my life when I wake up sorry that I've woken up because when I was asleep, I didn't have to think about it. You wake up, and you sit on the side of the bed, and before I ever get out of bed, I'm exhausted.
“I've never experienced the fatigue and the emotional turmoil that comes of all that. I was unable to conceptualize what people who have been victimized go through.”
Family members need to stay in touch
Beverly Quandt is a social worker for Shands Vista, an addiction and mental health treatment center. She has worked with senior citizens and dementia patients. She has experience in arranging care after they leave Vista.
And right now, she said she would not recommend in-home aides.
Assisted living facilities and nursing homes are covered by some state regulations and must meet certain standards, she said. But the home companion business is largely unregulated and unmonitored.
“Would I refer (clients) to caregivers in the home? No. I realize that's probably not being effective. But no, I don't think I could,” she said.
“Is it biased? Yeah, but that's just normal. If you've been in a car wreck, you're more cautious. I can't say it hasn't had any effect. I wouldn't refer (clients) to caregivers. I don't know that I could be comfortable saying that right now. Who knows what the future will be?”
Both the Quandts, police and professionals who deal with the elderly said that the more family members have contact with their loved one, the better the outcome is likely to be regardless of whether the elder has a home aide or is in an assisted living facility or nursing home.
They said family members should pay attention to what their elder tells them about the care that is being given, and to not dismiss what they say or discount it because they are old.
But Paul Quandt noted that frequent family contact and finding a first-rate caregiver or facility cannot prevent the kind of tragedy that befell his father.
“Where we ended up — I can't lay that on home health care. That's the actions of two individuals,” he said.
But he added this caution: “Listen to the people being cared for because if you don't, you are going to hear it in your nightmares.”