Nursing homes touched by gun violence

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It is hard enough to read about random acts of violence.  It is another story altogether when those incidents occur in your own community.

That is how long-term care providers likely feel after learning about the shooting rampage Sunday at Pinelake Health and Rehab Center in Carthage, NC. The shooting resulted in the deaths of seven nursing home residents and a nurse.

The story is anyone’s worst nightmare. The gunman, Robert Stewart, opened fire at the nursing home at around 10 a.m. He killed the residents and nurse before police officer Justin Garner, who is being described as a hero, shot Stewart in the chest, stopping the bloodshed. The nurse, Jerry Avant, was killed, possibly while trying to take down the gunman. Another act of inestimable bravery.

As ghastly as it is, the shooting sounds all too familiar: An unassuming killer unleashes his pent-up fury on harmless innocents. The difference this time, of course, is that it was not an elementary school or university or mall—where other episodes have taken place. It was a nursing home—which could have been your facility—and the victims were residents and employees—who could have been yours. Pinelake is a rehabilitation, nursing and Alzheimer's care unit with 90 nursing beds and 20 special care Alzheimer's beds.

One McKnight’s reader who responded to our news story may have spoken for the whole of the provider community. The reader commented, “Scary stuff. Could happen any time, it seems. How do they expect us not to be at least a little spooked for a while?”

How could you not? March was a particularly horrific month for shooting sprees. Earlier this month, a man, going cross county in rural Alabama, killed 10 people, including his mother and several other relatives. It was the worst mass shooting in the state’s history. On March 11, a teen killed 12 people at his former high school in Germany.

Unfortunately, now nursing homes are part of our collective memory of places where unspeakable violence has occurred.

The North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association has set up a charity for the victims and their families.

Donations to the relief effort may be sent payable to:

Carthage Crisis Assistance Fund
North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association
5109 Bur Oak Circle
Raleigh, NC 27612

Contributions may also be taken to any branch of Capital Bank.
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McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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