Georgia Woman Dies in Independent Living Home, Three Days Pass Before Someone Notices

An elderly woman died last week at an independent living home in Macon, Georgia, and it was days before her family or the facility's staff discovered she had passed away.

The woman, first identified as 71-year-old Jewel Pounds Billings by the Macon-based television station WMAZ-TV, was found on August 14 inside her unit at Magnolia Manor. Mark Todd, the facility's president and CEO, confirmed the deceased woman's identity and age with Newsweek.

Magnolia Manor's Macon facility offers independent living villas and apartments, independent supportive units and assisted living apartments. The facility is identified on its website as a "faith-based, tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization affiliated by covenant with the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church" with a history dating back to the late 1950s. An estimated 1,500 residents live amongst Magnolia Manor's nine locations, which collectively employ nearly 1,000 people.

Todd told Newsweek that Billings had lived in one of the independent living units and saw facility staff less frequently since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We would normally see our residents on a daily basis, particularly at mealtime," Todd said. "We have a central dining area and everybody eats a meal in the middle of the day."

Woman independent living facility death
The body of a 71-year-old independent-living facility resident was discovered inside her unit days after she passed away in Macon, Georgia. Above, an empty gurney is seen outside of a hospital's morgue in Baltimore, Maryland on December 23, 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

The pandemic necessitated restrictions for those mealtime habits, as well as fewer interactions with visitors and staff. "There was a little bit of a disconnect there, in the fact that we weren't seeing her at mealtimes," Todd said.

The facility offers take-out meals for its independent living residents, but Todd said Billings was "kind of sporadic" in the frequency with which she sought out those prepared meals.

"She didn't always come on a regular basis to pick up a meal, because they're living in an apartment where she can fix all that herself," he said.

The facility received a call the morning of August 14 from one of the woman's family members saying they hadn't heard from her in a few days, according to Todd.

"We went to check on her and knocked on the door. She didn't answer the door. We let ourselves into the apartment, and knew that she had died," he said.

Todd said the facility called emergency medical personnel, the coroner, and Billings' family to alert them of her death. Her family was first to arrive, he said.

"The coroner said that she died of natural causes and that she could have been dead as much as two to three days," Todd said. Macon-Bibb County's assistant coroner confirmed to WMAZ-TV that Billings died on August 11, three days before she was found.

Todd said Billings' family is "extremely upset" with the facility for not discovering her sooner.

"We wish it hadn't happened this way," Todd said. "We failed in that respect."

Todd said he understands the family's frustrations and said the facility's staff is also distressed by the death of one of their residents.

"Our staff is upset. We've lost somebody that we've been caring for, so it's just not a good situation all the way around," Todd said.

"Our condolences to the family," he added. "We're upset, and they rightly are upset. We wish things could have been a little bit different."