HEALTH

COVID spread in nursing home is killing residents, affecting staff

BY Joanna Gagis, Producer/Correspondent |

“In my mom’s unit, I think there are 21 people, and she is one of the last four who have not been tested. I don’t believe she has any symptoms that they would test her,” said Kelly Giacomelli.

Giacomelli’s mom, Jane Zimmerman, is a resident at the Spring Hill Senior Community assisted living center in Park Ridge, where 18 out of 22 residents in the memory ward have been tested for COVID. One of those 22 have already died.

Erica Haber’s mom Rhoda Prensky, also lives there, in the sub-acute section. Haber is hearing different numbers in her mom’s ward.

“I’m finding out through all these member, resident family emails that 10 people have died already. Residents have died,” Haber said.

NJTV News hasn’t been able to verify Haber’s claims of deaths, but there are also rumors it is spreading through the staff.

“Thirty-one of the staff are symptomatic. They can’t come in, obviously, until they’re cleared. So you’re taking a place that was already under-staffed and now it’s just more exacerbated,” Haber said.

And that has family members concerned for the care their loved ones are getting.

“She’s still in bed at 12, when she’s supposed to be eating her lunch downstairs. They don’t get changed so they can suffer from a rash or whatever,” she said.

“People are not getting their medication. They’re going days without it. They did make it that people with diabetes, their insulin shots, are a priority,” Giacomelli said.

But, Giacomelli said some are waiting on line for hours, and not eating lunch until late in the afternoon.

Currently, what these families want most is better communication about what’s going on inside. They’d like to see a liaison put in place to answer questions about who’s infected and who’s caring for their loved ones.

“By the end of the call there really aren’t any answers to the questions that we have,” Giacomelli said.

NJTV News reached out to Spring Hill separately for comment and spoke with Joyce at the front desk.

“We have no comment about anything,” she said before hanging up the phone.

Another number for the facility went to a voicemail for an administrator, who hasn’t yet called back.

Haber was told Tuesday that her mom’s not eating and will be tested Wednesday and given a chest X-ray. She was able to FaceTime with her through a staff member she’s never seen before.

“My mom doesn’t look good. She looks off,” Haber said. “She sounded congested. I’m guessing, based on everybody there, that she probably has it. We’re desperate. We’re all desperate. We just want our family members to be safe and OK.”

“Hopefully she won’t have any symptoms and we’ll get through this, because she’s a tough bird,” Giacomelli said.

UPDATE:
After publication, Atrium Post Acute Care and Senior Living of Park Ridge provided a statement that reads, in part: 
 
“We are saddened by our current staffing levels. Currently, we have 7 staff members from the Post Acute Care who have tested positive for COVID-19. Others who have called out are symptomatic and self-quarantining. […] Those of us who have stayed, are working hard. There are fewer staff members to administer medication so that is taking much longer than it should, however no one has missed their medication outright.”
 
“We know that it is not perfect right now, but ask that our residents and families work with us and have empathy for the endless hours we are spending to still give the best care we can,” the statement concludes.
TOPIC: HEALTH