Cheryl Darling has a camera trained on her mother, a resident in the Absolut at Aurora Park nursing home in East Aurora.
Days ago, the camera recorded a scene that upset Darling. When she told Absolut's management about it, they reported the matter to the state Health Department and let two workers know they were no longer needed.
Weeks ago, nursing homes blocked visitors to help protect residents from Covid-19. Fortunately for Darling, she had set up the camera long before that, and it is now crucial in her effort to monitor her mother's care and condition.
Through the camera, Darling saw her mother receive little food and barely any fluids at dinner more than a week ago. So she called the home to ask that her mother, who has dementia, be given water from a cup that was left behind. It was sitting in view of the camera but well outside her mother's reach.
Two aides entered the room and began the ritual of preparing Nancy Darling, 79, for the night ahead. They spoke roughly to her, but they also called her "honey." The aides seemed to know about the camera and referred to it in their banter.
It then became apparent they did not intend to give Nancy Darling any water.
As they said goodnight to her and left the room, one aide aimed a taunt at the person watching through the camera.
"Come get your mom," the aide said, "and give her the water."
She dumped the cup in the trash, and the room went dark.
The Covid-19 pandemic has demanded more of nursing homes, especially low-rated, one-star homes, such as Absolut. But Darling wonders how well they will perform if some of their staff are indifferent to residents' needs.
"If they can do this to a resident with a camera in their room, imagine those that aren’t as fortunate," she told The Buffalo News.
Jason Newman speaks for Long Island-based RCA Healthcare Management, LLC. It's in the process of acquiring the East Aurora home and five other bankrupt Absolut facilities. Meanwhile, RCA is involved in Absolut at Aurora Park's operation through an administrative services agreement.
Newman said the two aides actually worked for an agency that Absolut hired to supplement its own staff. He confirmed that the two were asked to never work there again and said the episode was reported to the Health Department.
Cheryl Darling also works in health care, as a treatment assistant for Catholic Health. She said no one from the Health Department has contacted her yet. She asked that The News not show the video to readers because it captures her mother in private moments.
Since the incident on April 16, Darling says she has seen, through the camera, clear improvement in her mother's care. She is tended to by staff members Nancy Darling is familiar with. She is fed more patiently. The facility's director even fed her one night, Darling said.
As for Covid-19, the home has acknowledged it has cases and told her it will keep those patients in a special unit, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said nursing homes are expected to do, she said.
"Absolut has been amazingly wonderful lately," Cheryl Darling said.
"Things seem better. And I am praying it stays that way."