The Baytown Sun from Baytown, Texas on April 27, 1986 · Page 26
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April 27, 1986

The Baytown Sun from Baytown, Texas · Page 26

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Baytown, Texas
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Sunday, April 27, 1986
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Page 26
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t-c THE BAYTOWN SUN Sunday, April 27, 1906 Fate of invalid debated AUSTIN (AP) - On one side is a devoted husband who says he can take better care of his elderly invalid wife in their home. On the other are state and volunteer workers with the elderly who think she is better off in a nursing home. A Travis County court will address the question soon, probably in June. 'I want to take care of her myself as I have been doing for 15 years, before all this came up," says Sigman Byrd, 76, a retired former Houston news writer and editor. "If I turned away now, I would be an accessory to any neglect she might suffer," says Jacqueline LeLong, a professional counselor for those with problems of the elderly. Both Byrd and Ms. LeLong have asked to be made guardians of Ruth Byrd, 72, who sometimes is lucid and sometimes is not. Since the controversy began about a year ago, the Byrds have attracted attention from about half a dozen attorneys, the state welfare department, the Texas Civil Liberties Union, and members of the Gray Panthers. Byrd says he can give the best care to his wife at home. The Department of Human Resources and'others have said Mrs. Byrd needs the medical attention available at a nursing home. The state agency ordered Mrs. Byrd put in the nursing home but is not part of the competition over guardianship. "We are being harassed literally to death by this new police state in Texas," said Byrd. "I'm a nervous wreck. My wife has lost her mind and is losing her physical heaith in this prison where they are holding her ... I am being divorced by my wife by authority of the state." "I have taken this on because I cannot turn away from it," says Ms. LeLong. "I have done research on elder abuse and neglect and feel that someone needs to stand for Ruth Byrd and to take the risks which in this case are considerable." Ms. LeLong practices as a professional education gerontologist, working with families about problems with the elderly. The position she must take on Ruth Byrd is a joyless one. she says. Her involvement is as an individual, not as a representative of any group, she said, although she is an active member of the Gray Panthers, an activist group for the elderly. Austin attorney Richard Thormann, who was appointed Mrs. Byrd's temporary guardian by the county probate court in December, is now an attorney for Ms. LeLong Thormann said he once agreed with Byrd, "but I changed my mind. Now I don't think he has her best interests at heart." Byrd's attorneys are Virginia Raymond and Elliott Naishtat of Austin. Austin law firm. Naishtat said they were asked by the TCLU to take the case on a volunteer basis. "We are doing this because we think he needs help," said Naishtat. "He sees it as a conspiracy. People are not accustomed to seeing a 76-year-old man stand up for his rights." Rob Robertson, another Austin attorney who once acted as Byrd's adviser, says Byrd is a "crotchety old man" but says Ruth Byrd would have died long ago without her husband's tender, loving care. Ruth Byrd, in declining health for 20 years, suffered a stroke that partially paralyzed her right side and also suffers from seizures, brittle bones and recurring urinary tract infections. Doctors say they cannot treat the dementia that has affected her mental facilities and reduced her weight to 84 pounds. Until a year ago, Sigman cared for his wife almost constantly at home. He fixed her favorite food, made sure she got the necessary exercise to keep her muscles from withering and even played recordings of the classical music she loves so much. ''We were teen-age sweethearts and I love her. But I would rather see her in a coffin than in a nursing home. It's a miserable, contemptible place." he said at one court hearing. In March 1985 the Department of Human Resources received an anonymous tip that Mrs. Byrd needed help. Under a 1981 law. the department must investigate any report of abuse, exploitation or neglect of an elderly person. A DHS representative, accompanied by a deputy sheriff, found that she was getting proper care. However, in November the DHS got another report. This time an investigator found she was not eating enough and should be fed through a tube. She was taken to a nursing home. In a December court hearing Thormann was named temporary guardian, but the judge- allowed Mrs. Byrd to be taken home. The state said it would not pursue the case unless there were future complaints. Pakistan government frowns on sport of girl watching ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — The coming of spring in Pakistan is marked by brilliant flowers, clear blue skies — and a new police crackdown on "Eve teasing." Eve teasing or "Eve watching" is watching or trying to meet women, and both are illegal in Pakistan. Watching or approaching a woman violates Islamic dictates on modesty and morality and is a vice that cannot be tolerated in the eyes of the government. : Boys may be boys, but trying to pick up girls is going too far and the authorities will not put up with such a challenge to public morality, said one official, who like others was reluctant to discuss the subject. Pakistani newspapers from time to time carry little articles buried on their inside pages reporting that another batch of youths had been rounded up for girl watching. The reports tend to pop up with the coming of spring's fine weather. The complaints came the next day, when nursing home employees said Byrd removed intravenous feeding tubes from his invalid wife and carried her, dressed in a nightgown, out ot the nursing home in freezing weather. Red Cross offers class on safety A safety course for person* In-, terested in becoming instructors in safety related courses will be taught by the Greater Houston Area Red Cross May 23 through June!. The nine-day camp will be held at Camp Casa Mare on Galveston Bay near Seabroo^. Instructor level courses will be taught in sailing, canoeing, water safety, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, first aid, lifeguar- ding and adapted aquatics. Cost of the camp is $1«0 and includes room and board, tuition and textbooks. Students must be at least 17 years old and in good physical condition. Applicants need to register by May 10. For more information or to register call Safety Services, Greater Houston Area Chapter, P.O. Box 397, Houston, Texas, 77001-0397 or phone 526-8300. 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