HOUSTON - As COVID cases rise again a Houston granddaughter has a warning for anyone with a loved one in a nursing home. "They are not going to love and care for that person like you are. It’s another person to them. To you it’s your grandmother, your mother, your father," says Sherrie Smith.
When nursing homes restricted visits in the pandemic Sherrie Smith was only seeing her grandmother through a window. By the time she was allowed back into the building her grandmother was in such bad shape she died a short time later. "It’s been a journey. It has been a lot to deal with," says Smith choking back tears.
Smith was used to seeing her grandmother Ruby Oliver, with dignity and well put together, even in her older years. "She was a diva. She deserved the best. She had the best clothes. She gave the best gifts," Smith smiles. The fashionista with the big heart worked as an elementary school teacher and a nurse and did charity work with her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. So Smith says she was devastated to have to photograph her grandmother with bedsores so bad we have to blur them. "They are really bad, two on one side, one on her back and one on the other side. So there was no way for her, at all, to get comfortable," Smith explains. She says when her Grandmother’s Houston nursing home restricted visits in the pandemic she was anxious to get back in and see her but when she did she says she was horrified by what she saw.
"She had a private room. Her restroom didn’t have hot water. She had roaches in her room. She had bedsores that were so huge. I can’t imagine a human being or an animal being treated in that way," Smith says so she immediately removed her. "I actually called 911 and I had them pick her up from the facility and take her to the hospital. She had a fractured back, fractured pelvis. Along with the other sores and stuff like that she was malnourished and she was dehydrated".
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September 1, 2021, her 92-year-old grandmother died. "The sores basically gave her an internal infection that caused her to pass away," explains Smith who says she wishes she had perhaps left a communication device in her grandmother’s room. "Whether that be an internal camera where you can kind of zoom in and see them at any given time or by that person being able to FaceTime or something to where you can physically put your eyes on that person on a regular basis".
If you suspect someone is being abused or neglected in a nursing home contact the Texas Health and Human Services Commission at 800-458-9858. However, if it's a life-threatening emergency call 911.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission released the following statement:
Nursing facilities are required by HHSC rule to allow residents to receive visitors, including essential caregivers, as long as all appropriate health and safety precautions relating to COVID-19 are taken. Nursing facilities also must ensure a resident’s right to communicate with people inside and outside the facility by making a phone or other electronic communication, such as videoconferencing, accessible. The facility also is required to assist residents as needed.
Additionally, a resident or their representative may request authorized electronic monitoring with a device such as a camera placed in the resident’s room to allow family and loved ones to view the individual and their room.
Our top priority is and remains the health and safety of people in long-term care facilities, including residents and staff. We continually assess what actions are necessary to keep people safe in the facilities we regulate. Throughout the pandemic, HHSC has regularly published updated guidance and information for providers here: https://www.hhs.texas.gov/services/health/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-provider-information