Arkansas (KNWA/KFTA) — Ben Richard Chaney has many titles. He’s a father, husband, grandfather, and great-grandfather. As his daughter puts it, he’s spent most of the last year watching life happen from the window of a nursing home.
“Within a year’s time he went from a dad who could do for us to our father who has now given up,” Angela Sullins said.
Angela Sullins says in April of 2020, her father suffered from a massive stroke. She says the family found out over the phone he would need heart surgery.
“The hospital said, well, he had signed a consent form and we said well can we visit with him and they said on no he’s not in any condition to visit,” Sullins said.
Lack of communication that would only be a fraction of the problems her family would face. She says her father landed in a Harrison nursing and rehab center after an accident at home caused him to undergo surgery. There, Sullins says he had fallen off the bed, hurt his pelvis, and would spend days at a time in isolation.
“He got to see my granddaughter from a window and we thought that would be good and instead that was worse for him,” Sullins said. “He cried and he went into depression because he realized what he was missing.”
Martha Deaver knows first hand the impact isolation has had on families.
“They would call the facility, not get answers about their loved ones,” Deaver said. “The nursing homes were too busy to set up appointments.”
She’s the director of Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents, providing resources to residents and their family members who’d call her in a panic.
“They looked sick, they were lethargic, they were dirty,” Deaver said as she explained the type of phone calls she’d receive. “We would see employees come by with no masks on.”
One man she’s helped, the husband of a Fort Smith woman who he says suffered numerous injuries at the Methodist Nursing Home, including ants swarming her body. A medical malpractice lawsuit has been filed.
Public records show in Northwest Arkansas a number of complaints were investigated at some local nursing homes and rehab centers.
Fayetteville Health and Rehab Center:
Records from September revealed residents claimed they would go days without a bath. Some reported they hadn’t been bathed in four weeks. A spokesperson for the management company over the facility says there were no communal bathing units in the COVID unit so each resident had to get a bed bath instead of their typical shower.
Springdale Health and Rehab Center:
In October, records show feces were found on one resident’s bed linens and socks. There were also reports of trash, food crumbs, and cockroaches found in some rooms. The penalty, $3,250 fine.
The same spokesperson tells us the staff was dealing with a COVID outbreak during the time of this inspectation and were in the process of moving residents to the COVID units the morning the surveyor arrived. He also says the resident found with dirty linens and socks had taken himself to the bathroom and had loose stool.
Other inspections also uncovered COVID-19 protocols were not being followed properly.
In a December report, inspectors found the staff was not in full PPE at Prairie Grove Health and Rehab. Some employees were seen not wearing gowns or changing out gloves.
Rachel bunch is the Executive Director of the Arkansas Healthcare Association which oversees the state’s nursing homes. She says since this report, the facility created a plan of correction that has already been put in place at the state’s request.
“Prairie Grove Health and Rehabilitation has always been committed to high-quality care of their residents. The staff has worked tirelessly with diligence and dedication to care for their residents throughout the pandemic. After their state inspection in December, the facility created a plan of correction that has already been put in place at the state’s request. This includes further training on infection control procedures and biohazard linen monitoring. Training and evaluations were complete at the beginning of 2021 with hands-on and lecture format training. We are confident our facilities take state inspections and training seriously and are pleased to share that all facilities are proactive in implementing a plan of correction when needed.”Rachel Bunch, AHCA Executive Director.
She also says inspections changed last year to be focused more on infection control.
“We’ve seen lots of facilities to have deficiency-free surveys from their infection control survey which is really exciting for us to show the good work happening in those homes,” Bunch said. “We’ve seen more than I’ve probably ever seen before in deficiency-free surveys.”
Now, families are starting to reunite with their loved ones as visitor restrictions ease and bills requiring patients to have one visitor with them under certain circumstances get signed into law.
Still, for several families like Sullins, the year away from loved ones is time they will never get back.
“If we had been allowed, if someone had been allowed to see or touch him during that time, this would have not happened,” Sullins said.
Not all nursing homes have seen the same struggles. We did reach out to Windcrest Health and Rehab in Springdale which, according to ADH reports, went the entire year without reporting a single COVID-19 death. However, it declined to interview.
Resources provided by Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents:
- Find Healthcare Providers: Compare Care Near You | Medicare
- Arkansas Long-Term Care | Ombudsman
- The 20 most common nursing home federal laws and how to resolve them
You can also contact Martha Deaver directly at firstname.lastname@example.org