Waiting to hear of a loved ones condition in a nursing home during the pandemic can be a heartbreaking experience. For one woman in Saratoga Springs, it is frustrating and terrifying to not know about what's happening to her mother.
Mary Beth Delarm's mother lives in the Diamond Hill nursing home in Troy. She says it's been virtually impossible to find out about the health of her mother.
"They just continue to fail with communication," she said. "At the least they could send an email. But to have to turn on that morning news and to find out if your loved one is one who died by just stating the gender and age is unconscionable."
Nursing homes are barred from accepting visitors to prevent the spread of the virus. But Delarm says more needs to be done to keep family members informed -- including by state officials.
An executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo requires nursing homes to disclose COVID illnesses and deaths within 24 hours. But Delarm says that has not been enough.
"There's no physical check on them especially during COVID when no one can get in there," Delarm said. "No one is helping. It doesn't help to just talk."
More than 4,000 deaths in nursing homes since March are either directly attributed to COVID or believed to be as a result of the virus. Maria Alvarez of the Statewide Senior Action Council says a combination of low staffing, mergers and a lack of protective equipment led to problems across the state.
"Really it was sort of like the perfect storm when a pandemic happened that there were not enough protections in place," Alvarez said.
Alvarez says keeping family members in the dark can limit options.
"They lose their option as to do I want to take my relative out of the home," she said. "There is a lot of choice that's not being given to consumers and the community by not knowing what the situation is."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's nursing home policies have come under criticism. The state has since reversed requiring the facilities to take COVID patients. On Thursday Cuomo said nursing home residents must be looked after.
"No nursing home should keep a person in that nursing home who they cannot provide adequate care, period," Cuomo said.
We reached out to Diamond Hill and they declined to take questions in person and over the phone. We submitted a list of emailed questions and received the below response.
We provide regular communication on our website, Facebook, and by E-mail but in these unprecedented times, we always have room to improve. As a result of the new Federal Guidelines, we are in the process of revising our communications process to report in a new format that Complies with both New York and Federal Law, which for some reason are not the same.
"We understand that not bringing able to visit is difficult for our loved ones and residents alike. If for any reason any resident or loved one is not able to access our social media accounts, or is not on our distribution list, please let us know so we can promptly add you. People can also sign up for distributions at TheDiamondRehab.Com," the statement read.