Will NYS step-up nursing home and assisted living facility inspections post-COVID?

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — If you’ve got a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility, it’s probably been a while since you’ve seen their actual room.

The pandemic first prevented in-person visitation and then limited it. Even now, many facilities urge families to visit in common areas or outside but it might be the time to insist on seeing where your loved one has actually been laying his or her head.

David Hegeman lives in Cobbs Hill Manor, an assisted living facility along Monroe Avenue in Rochester. Last month, his sister Kim was able to see his room for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

“Dead mice and live mice living in his clothes and next to the bed,” she described to News10NBC.

“The amount of mouse feces that I started to see dropping, I was like you’ve got to be kidding me. And I did get a little heated and I said, this is what you let your residents live in? I pulled up a pair of his pants and a live mouse jumped out at me and I screamed and I was very upset, at this point I was like how can I get my brother out of here. I have a home that he can’t come to because I have stairs, he can’t do stairs.”

The facility says it offers weekly housekeeping services to all residents in addition to medical care coordination and personal care assistance but others who live there say Hegeman’s situation is not all that uncommon, “I wrote a five-page grievance and gave it to the social worker back in August they never did a damn thing on the list, it was resident grievances, it wasn’t just me,” says Cathy Harty.

When it comes to mice, “I’ve had two, I’ve got a trap for another one that I saw about a month ago,” Harty explains, “they said I had bed bugs, I was treated, I think it was last summer for that, 3 times.”

After News10NBC’s original investigation aired last month, the Owner of Cobbs Hill Manor brought in exterminators and bed-bug sniffing dogs. On Friday, he provided News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke with paperwork showing there is no widespread infestation.

The New York State Department of Health recently had inspectors inside the facility interviewing residents, "they told me ‘we’re working on it,’" recalls Harty of her interview with them.

This situation brings up a bigger conversation for all families with loved ones in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. So, News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke asked Governor Kathy Hochul about it directly.

Jennifer Lewke – Have you had any discussions with the health commissioner about stepping up the enforcement of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities following the pandemic because families are seeing their loved ones for the first time or their loved ones’ environments and some of them are pretty shocked.

Governor Kathy Hochul – We have very high standards for our nursing homes and if there are violations they’ll be dealt with so we’re gonna continue our aggressive approach to make sure that the environment is safe for their loved ones. it’s been a very challenging time for the nursing homes themselves who had to take people who still had COVID sent back to them because of policies of the previous administration, they had to deal with a lot of challenges but also the families deserve the very best care for their loved ones and we’re going to ensure that that is always the case here in the state of New York.