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The effects of long-term care shortage in Florida

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WPEC

A Florida woman died while fighting to come home after being sent to Georgia to stay alive.

In May, Carlenne Colaizzi was forced to leave her home of 50 years to go to a nursing home in a small town in rural Georgia because it was the closest facility to offer the ventilator she needs to breathe.

In the last days of her life, she wanted to be with her family and friends.

But that didn’t happen.

She and her husband, Chuck Colaizzi, made a lifetime of memories in Venice, Florida.

They never imagined she’d be forced to live out her final days so far from everything they know.

“We loved it in Florida. We loved every minute of it, Chuck Colaizzi said.

Carlenne Colaizzi was a rock in the community.

A teacher and an active church member, she was always there for those who needed her.

“She liked doing for people she liked doing everything for people,” Chuck Colaizzi said.

Especially her husband, who has battled multiple illnesses over the years.

When she was diagnosed with ALS in 2016, their roles reversed.

“It got to a point where I had to help her into bed and help her go to the commode,” Chuck Colaizzi said.

Then, the thing she most feared happened.

“Her worst nightmare was being sound mind, but not being able to do absolutely anything else,” Chuck Colaizzi said.

At the time of her death, she could only move one wrist and her husband had to read her lips because she can barely speak.

The one bright spot of her day were visits from family and their many friends.

Those comforts were lost when she was forced to move to Georgia because there wasn't a facility in Florida that would treat her.

Florida doesn’t have enough nursing home beds for people who require costly long-term ventilator care.

In fact, there are only four facilities in the entire state and they are full to capacity, all the time.

Private in-home care of the kind Carlenne Colaizzi needed would cost thousands of dollars a week.

“This has been a nightmare it really has,” Chuck Colaizzi said.

The Colaizzis moved to a nursing home in Colquitt, Georgia because it was the nearest place that would accept Carlenne.

The city of Colquitt is just three miles wide.

The distance meant she rarely saw any family besides her husband.

“She has so many friends and to be here, he’s mostly depressed,” Chuck Colaizzi said.

The Colaizzis' 27-year-old granddaughter is named after Carlenne.

She moved to Colquitt so they wouldn’t be alone.

“She gave up her life. She had a good job,” Chuck Colaizzi said.

The small town came with a small number of options.

Carlenne Colaizzi Jr. couldn’t find a place to rent or work.

“It took a lot out of me emotionally and mentally,” she said.

After five months in Colquitt, she moved an hour away to Tallahassee.

“I’m literally the only person they see that they know most of the time,” Carlenne Jr. said.

In the end, her husband Chuck, Carlenne Jr. and her healthcare surrogate were with her.

It was too far for anyone else to make it in time.

If you think it’s time for the state to do something about this lack of available care, you’re not alone.

We’ll have that part of the story on CBS 12 News Monday night at 11 p.m.

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