Family angry over lack of Suffolk nursing home’s communication after death of loved one


SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Patricia OConnell knew her 90-year-old mother wasn’t going to live forever. But she had no idea that their time together was ending far more quickly than she imagined — and she says it didn’t have to be that way.

Esther Brooks was living at home alone in Portsmouth several weeks ago when she fell. Afterward, she came to Autumn Care of Suffolk for rehab.

“After the third day, we couldn’t reach her anymore,” OConnell said, even though her mother had her personal phone and a landline in her room.

The family couldn’t get through to the Autumn Care staff, either.

“We weren’t able to reach the nurses, they’re not answering the phones, they’re not returning messages. To me it’s tragic.”

Tragic, because Brooks was rapidly declining. COVID-19 restrictions meant OConnell and other family members couldn’t visit to see how Brooks was doing. The family then found out through a social worker that she had been transferred to Sentara Obici Hospital.

“Then we could see my mother, and when we walked into the room we were absolutely shocked because she was nothing like the mother we ever knew.”

Brooks didn’t recognize her own daughter, and had lost a lot of weight.

“She was declining so bad the nurse said that she was malnourished at this point,” OConnell said.

A few days later, Brooks was back home, in a coma. She died Oct. 17. She had congestive heart failure. Her family wants nursing homes like Autumn Care to be more responsive and sensitive to families, especially during the pandemic.

“We don’t understand the lack of communication between a family, when you have someone that you can’t go in and see,” OConnell said. “You should at least be able to find out what condition they’re in. She should have passed with dignity. This was not dignity.”

Autumn Care is part of Saber Healthcare Group, headquartered near Cleveland. The company sent this statement in response:

“The facility acts in the best interest of its residents to promote their health, safety, and welfare. The facility establishes a personalized care plan for each resident and routinely updates all residents and responsible parties regarding their condition and care. Due to HIPAA regulations, we cannot comment on any personal health information.”

10 On Your Side followed up on the statement to see if Saber will look into the family’s claims — and take any appropriate corrective action if warranted. We are awaiting a response.

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