It's unclear what that routine was, but its result became clear last Dec. 26. That's when paramedics went to the house and found 82-year-old Leonard Houck dead, his 5-foot-7, 79-pound frame on a soiled mattress in the living room.
On Tuesday, a Philadelphia judge ordered Thomas Houck to stand trial on murder charges of starving his father. Houck is also charged with putting his 80-year-old mother at risk of the same fate.
Houck, 57, a gaunt man with a mane of bushy brown hair and a wispy mustache, sat quietly through the preliminary hearing before Municipal Court Judge David C. Shuter. Only once did he seem to get agitated, and that was when his brother-in-law testified about the events leading to the discovery on the day after Christmas.
Assistant City Medical Examiner Edwin Lieberman testified that Leonard Houck appeared to have been dead for a day or two when his body was discovered.
Lieberman, however, said he had no idea how long it took the elderly man to die; he said it depended on whether food and water had been totally withheld or supplied intermittently over a long period.
Lieberman said Houck was dehydrated and there was no water in his body tissue. The body had about a sixth of an ounce of reddish fluid in the stomach - the remains of some food - but no body fat.
The body had several bedsores, and the mattress indicated he had been lying in his own waste a long time, Lieberman said. He added that Houck showed evidence of dementia.
Defense attorney Dolores Bojazi asked Lieberman why he thought that Houck's death was a homicide and that Thomas Houck might be responsible.
"Mr. Houck evidently had no mobility," Lieberman replied. "He was not capable of getting up and walking."
Paul Paris, a Philadelphia Fire Department paramedic, testified that he went to the Houck house about 5 a.m. Dec. 26 after Thomas Houck called to say his mother was ill with recurring diarrhea.
Paris said that when he and his partner were going upstairs to see Doris Houck in her bedroom, he noticed Leonard Houck in the living room on a mattress, his head on a pillow and covered with a blanket.
Under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Naylor, Paris said he asked Thomas Houck about "the gentleman in the living room."
"He said it was his father and that was the way he was," Paris testified. "He had passed away and he [Thomas Houck] didn't know what to do at that point."
Police Officer Joseph Pawko testified that Thomas Houck said only he and his parents lived in the house.
"I asked him why he didn't call earlier" about his father, Pawko testified. "He couldn't answer that question. He just seemed dumbfounded."
Naylor said after the hearing that Doris Houck was dehydrated and malnourished. She spent three or four weeks in a hospital followed by nursing-home care and now lives with the Riesers in New Jersey.
Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, email@example.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.