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Nursing home victim 'had a strong faith in God'

South Florida Sun Sentinel - 9/13/2017

Sept. 13--Carolyn Eatherly, 78, began living at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in 2009, after Alzheimer's made it impossible for her to stay at home, according to her best friend, Linda Horton of Miami.

Eatherly died there Wednesday, one of six seniors to fall victim to the nursing home's lack of air conditioning.

Horton and Eatherly were friends and roommates for 20 years, for brief periods in Fort Lauderdale and Tennessee, but most of the time in Miami.

"She liked going to the movies. Her big thing was she loved animals and plants. She spent her time outside and worked on plants and had a garden, and she would talk to them and believed that through talking to them she helped them," Horton said. "She believed in God, she had a strong faith in God, and she liked going places, going to the Keys -- she would have been devastated knowing what happened to the Keys -- and she liked going to Disney World."

Eatherly was born and raised in Kentucky. Her childhood was rough, Horton said: her father, a policeman, committed suicide in the family home when Eatherly was a child. She was an only child who never married or had children.

She graduated from Western Kentucky University where she studied the arts and dreamed of being a painter.

"She was never able to do anything with it, really," Horton said, and instead made a living working in accounting for various companies.

But she was happy, a great friend, and the women took care of each other.

After her diagnosis, Horton hoped the women could stay together, but the disease made it difficult.

"I couldn't take care of her. I worked and I couldn't leave her at home because she would go and I would never know where she was," Horton said.

Finally, when Eatherly fell and broke her hand while walking Horton's dog, Horton asked a hospital social worker for help. Eatherly was sent to the facility, although Horton said she has tried to run away.

Horton said she stopped visiting several years ago because whenever she did, Eatherly picked up her purse and announced she was ready to leave and go home.

"I said 'no honey, you have to stay here,' "Horton said.

The crying, she said, was unbearable.

"It was horrible for me, horrible for her. I couldn't visit her anymore, it was so hard. [When she asked] 'Where is Linda?' [the staff told her] 'She's at Disney World.' "

Horton said she replaced her visits with weekly phone calls to the managers but gave up on that, too, because they seemed more interested in using her as a sounding board.

"It got to the point where he started telling me about his issues and wouldn't tell me anything about Carolyn, and I said 'Look, is Carolyn OK?' It wasn't worth calling anymore," Horton said.

lhuriash@sunsentinel.com, 954-572-2008 or Twitter @LisaHuriash

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(c)2017 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

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