15 Jun 2013

Delay in finding body prompts call for change

11:04 am on 15 June 2013

A Wellington coroner has recommended that the providers of retirement accomodation provide regular checks for residents living in independent units.

Coroner Ian Smith has issued his findings on a man whose body lay undiscovered at a retirement village.

Richard Giese, who was 85, died of a heart attack at the Rita Angus Retirement Village in March 2010 and his body was found about two weeks later.

A staff member found Mr Giese after an elderly neighbour realised she had not heard the accomplished musician playing his flute, and that his lights had been left on.

His widow, Myra Giese, told the Coroner she assumed residents at the Ryman Healthcare-owned facility would be monitored.

The Coroner found Mr Giese led an independent life and was aware of the terms of his contract with Ryman Healthcare.

However, Mr Smith said it was unacceptable that a person could lie undiscovered for weeks in their home and has recommended that all retirement complexes provide at least weekly checks on residents unless they opt out of the arrangement.

Ryman Healthcare says independent residents in its retirement villages do not want to be monitored.

"The people who are buying independent units are fiercely independent and want to move into a village. So to suggest that they, by default, they are going to have to opt-in for daily or weekly checks, is implying that they need care," said the company's managing director, Simon Challise.

But Mr Challise says his company is trialling an alarm system that detects a lack of movement in apartments.