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Families voice frustration over nursing home policies

Carol Tulipane of Silver Creek has not seen her sister, Nancy Savali, in months. Even window visits, she says, have been banned at the Chautauqua Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Dunkirk.

“My sister’s laptop died and I went down to drop a new one off,” Tulipane said. “Her computer is all she has, so when I got there a lady came rushing out asking why I was there. I told her and then asked if when she took the laptop back if they could open her drapes so I could say hi to my sister and also to make sure she got the lap top.”

As the pandemic marks nearly 180 days, time with family has taken a harrowing hit. Families have been separated. Friends have not seen each other in months.

In addition, there is an irritation and realization at how long this may go on, which is beginning to take a toll on the nerves of many. Within this spectrum is the nursing home population, which has had very little if any contact with their loved ones since March.

Tulipane’s frustration has grown by the day. The worker, according to Tulipane during that visit, was quite flustered and said she’d have to clear it with the supervisor. Tulipane waited and was then told that they wouldn’t open the drapes, to which Tulipane became irate.

“I wasn’t asking her to open the window, just the drapes,” Tulipane explained. “I asked to speak with the supervisor who after awhile of waiting came out and told me angrily that she’d open the drapes for five minutes and then I had to get off the property or they were going to call the police.”

Tulipane was understandably shocked, but went to the window as the drapes were thrown open, she waved to her sister and went on her way.

“I mean what if it had been the last time I saw her?” Tulipane questioned. “You just never know.”

An hour later, Savali called Tulipane asking what had happened. According to Savali, a worker came in angrily and said she was “opening the drapes for five minutes and then after that they were to be closed and not opened for the rest of the night.”

Tulipane was shocked to hear this. “I reported everything to the New York state Health Department and the Department of Justice,” Tulipane stated. “They were quite helpful.”

Another individual who also is unhappy is Heather Cochran of Forestville, whose grandmother is living there.

“Her birthday was coming up and a bunch of family wanted to go down and wish her a happy birthday,” Cochran said. “We organized it a week before that we could go down and hold a sign up near her window wishing her a happy birthday and everything was fine.”

Their brief visit was cleared by the social worker, when they got there however it was another matter entirely.

“We brought her a gift and handed it to a staff member through the door, but then the supervisor and security came out and said we were congregating,” Cochran said.

Jody Falkner of Fredonia had a similar experience.

“My father has been a resident there for three years and I received a call that he was jaundiced,” Falkner said. “After fighting to get him sent to Brooks he was moved to UPMC Hamot Medical Center in Erie where he was told he had a tumor.”

Soon he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Falkner accompanies him on almost all of his doctor appointments and that didn’t sit well with the administrator of the facility according to Falkner.

“When we went to meet the oncologist we found there was little that could be done for him and so he was assessed by Hospice,” Falkner said. “This whole thing was sad because we had to tell him he had cancer through Facetime.”

Falkner complains that the WiFi and Facetime often doesn’t work in his room and that the family needs to be there during this time.

“When someone is dying one person is allowed one hour with them as they go and that’s it, it’s not right,” Falkner added. “People can go and visit prisoners in jail and we can’t even have window visits with our loved ones.”

Friday there is expected to be a peaceful protest by families from 10 a.m. to noon at the Chautauqua Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

The OBSERVER reached out twice to the facility, but did not receive a call back.

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