Idaho nursing home patient who spoke out for better care dies at 28

Robert Rood “loved to show off his dogs” and always had a cat when he lived at home, said his mother, Julia Rood. Rood died in early April at age 28.
Robert Rood “loved to show off his dogs” and always had a cat when he lived at home, said his mother, Julia Rood. Rood died in early April at age 28. Courtesy of Julia Rood

Robert Rood was feisty. He also was a homebody, preferring to stay inside and play “World of Warcraft” with friends he made in his years of gaming. But he would make an exception and go outside when it came to walking his dog. Because his pets — cats and dogs — were his soft spot.

Rood died April 6 at 28 years old in Vancouver, Wash., from cardiac arrest followed by a stroke, according to his family.

“He actually was having a wonderful day,” said his mother, Julia Rood. His uncle had been helping him connect a phone to his computer for video chats, she said.

Rood and his family became unwitting advocates for people with severe disabilities last year, when Rood’s mistreatment at a Nampa nursing home was highlighted as part of a federal Medicare enforcement case. His mother told the Statesman in October that Rood was hospitalized four times in six weeks, “suffered a lung injury while he was there, and pneumonia and MRSA” and lost 69 pounds in two months.

Rood and his mother also spoke out about Idaho’s shortage of nursing care for people with disabilities who want to live in their own homes.

He was a pistol. He was a good kid.

Julia Rood, mother of Robert Rood

Robert told the Statesman in October that he wanted to live in an apartment or house in Boise — not in an institution.

“Robert got his own home for a week” last August, Julia Rood said. He received four hours of nursing care, and no nurses ever showed up, she said.

Rood lost the use of his arms and legs at age 10, when a pickup truck hit him at State Street and Eagle Road. He spent eight months in the hospital. His mother was his full-time caregiver until 2011. After that, Rood spent years in Idaho nursing homes and hospitals.

Idaho has only two nursing homes that accept patients like Rood, who need ventilators to breathe. Rood was so miserable in the nursing homes that he refused to eat or drink, so his family moved him to a more home-like nursing center in Washington.

“Robert was a very determined, tenacious kid. And very smart. And kind of a handful,” said Susan Town, his aunt. “He pushed buttons a lot. But I think that’s what got him through the last 19 years. If he wasn’t tenacious and a fighter, he wouldn’t have made it as long as he did.”

The move to Washington cost thousands of dollars but greatly improved Rood’s well-being, the family said.

He was given his own room with a skylight and enjoyed spending time with the house cat, Eddie.

Robert Rood told the Statesman in January that he liked his new home, where his care was paid for by Washington’s Medicaid program.

“I feel they could have given me better care in my own home [in Idaho] but instead paid millions to nursing homes and hospitals,” Rood told the Statesman then.

Julia Rood said she took solace in two things: Robert’s death was not drawn-out or painful, and his final months were happy.

“He told me he was prepared to live out his days there,” she said. “He felt like his own man.”

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @audreydutton