Family searching for closure after matriarch dies at nursing home

Horsford at her 65th birthday party at the Sea Breeze event venue
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By Orville Williams

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The family of a mother-of-six, who died under questionable circumstances at a local nursing home last year, is pleading with health authorities to provide some clarity on the matter.

According to Denise Caleb, daughter of the late Camella Horsford, the family received word on November 13 that the 69-year-old matriarch – who had been suffering from dementia – had passed, after she was taken to the nursing home on November 3 as a ‘day patient’.

She said the details being shared by personnel at the nursing home about her mother’s death are cloudy, to put it best, and more than two months after her passing, they are no closer to knowing the full details.

Even more damning, she added, is the lack of compassion being shown to the family.

“I feel like the value of a human being’s life is truly being taken for granted … and the responsibility of those in charge who are supposed to be able to [exercise] a bit of compassion regarding a life being lost.

“I’m really hurt about that, to tell you the truth, and it’s really taking a toll on me mentally and physically, for the length of time [that has passed],” she told Observer. 

Caleb claims that, just hours after her mother was dropped off at the facility for day care services on November 3, a member of the family was informed that she “had a runny nose” and would be tested for Covid-19.

They were then told that the test result was positive and that Horsford would have to remain at the nursing home for one month.

In response to queries about what prompted the Covid-19 test on her mother and the need for one month’s isolation, Caleb said her runny nose was reiterated as the reason for the test and the isolation time was cut to 14 days.

Additionally, she said personnel at the nursing home suggested that her mother had contracted the virus from someone in the family home, but everyone in the household subsequently tested negative and presented their negative results.

During her queries, Caleb said the nursing home personnel “reluctantly admitted to a male resident having Covid-19”, and despite several requests for copies of her mother’s test result, medical records and the protocols at the nursing home, those were not granted.

On November 13, Caleb said the family received a phone call informing them that Horsford, who was fully vaccinated, had died. And in a call after that, they were told by the nursing home personnel that she “had returned a negative antigen test that morning”.

Caleb said she requested a copy of that test, the initial test and, again, the medical records during her mother’s bout with Covid-19, but those were not forthcoming.

Along with the nursing home’s reluctance to share her mother’s medical records with the family, Caleb pointed to several other concerns that she believes warrant an investigation.

Firstly, she said members of the family – who arrived at the nursing home shortly before the undertakers on the day of her mother’s death – were told that a request for ambulance services had been cancelled.

An unofficial investigation, she added, revealed that – contrary to reports from the nursing home personnel – “there was no call to 911 for an ambulance and no ambulance was dispatched to the [nursing] home on November 13”.

The help of the police was sought to determine what really happened, but they apparently directed the family back to the principals of the nursing home, who then “refused to respond to our queries”.

Another issue that Caleb said is concerning, is the pronouncements from a senior official in the Health Ministry on the incident.

She claimed she was told by the senior official – in response to queries about the cause of her mother’s death – that “any death within the 14-day window of someone testing positive for Covid is classified as a Covid death, regardless of the cause of death”.

In addition, she said she was told that “the nursing home is under no obligation to inform families of positive cases, since the law only requires them to report to the authorities”.

That latter bit was especially concerning, she said, as her mother was a day patient who returned to a large family every day. For that reason alone, she believes there should be no question about informing the families, so that they can appropriately protect themselves.

Caleb told Observer that the family is truly disappointed that things progressed the way they did and are hurting that they are still seeking closure, more than two months after her mother’s passing.

She said she is calling on the Health Minister and others in leadership to address the matter as best as they can, in helping a grieving family find that much-needed closure.

“I’m not asking for anything major, the only thing I want is an explanation as to the correct cause of [my mother’s] death and how it all happened. Because until then, there’s no closure in my mind.

“The way that she lived, being an example for so many people, many have been asking questions [about what happened] and I have no explanation whatsoever to give them.

“Even for myself, to bring a little peace of mind, there’s nothing at all I can say right now,” she added.

Observer has contacted the nursing home in question, as well as the Ministry of Health for comment on Caleb’s claims.

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