CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)– Nursing homes have been at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year now, as some of the country’s most vulnerable to the virus were left isolated.

In addition to concerning COVID-19 case numbers and deaths at nursing homes, some fear the pandemic also had detrimental impacts on day-to-day care.

Shera Hudson contacted the Count on 2 Investigators regarding concerns about the care her 92-year-old mother received at Shem Creek Health Center.

Her mother, Maxine Hudson, lived alone with relatively little assistance until last year.

“She has always been a very outgoing and vivacious person,” she said. “She enjoys reading watching the news, and writing,” she added.

After moving into the facility in December of 2020, Shera said her mother’s health declined rapidly.

According to Shera, Maxine suffered from multiple falls and urinary tract infections. Shera said it was difficult to get in contact with her mother and her care takers.

“I had described on the phone and also in an email and asked that she be evaluated to see whether it was a urinary tract infection or something else because I thought it could be something else and I was ignored. Repeatedly ignored,” she said.  

Maxine was later diagnosed with a stroke, which resulted in the loss of her vision.

Shera wonders if her mother’s vision loss could have been prevented if the stroke had been detected by her caregivers sooner.

“She is an academic person and enjoys reading and writing and she has really lost something that enjoys in life the most,” Shera said.

At the time of Maxine’s stroke, visitors were prohibited due to COVID-19 protocols. Shera believes distance created by the pandemic resulted in a decline in the quality of care residents received.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control reported a 47 percent increase in state licensing complaints against nursing homes between May 2020 and April 2021 compared to the previous year. The statistics are not specific to abuse and neglect complaints.

Hudson is now calling on lawmakers to create legislation on what are called ‘granny cams’ or cameras in residents’ rooms so that family members can keep a closer eye on their loved ones.

“I would ultimately like the state legislature here to join the other half dozen around the country that if a resident and family of the resident in any facility wants to put video camera in their room, that they be allowed to do so,” she said.

Shera said the cameras would give family members more peace of mind.

“Then there would be questions like ‘supposedly my mother fell out of her wheelchair and injured the back of her head’ and I am still trying to figure out how physically that was possible then I wouldn’t have to wonder. I think that we deserve that. I think that all the seniors deserve that,” she said.

In 2015, attorney and former state senator Paul Thurmond tried to add South Carolina to the growing list of states addressing the issue by introducing a bill that would  ban nursing homes from being able to deny in-room cameras.

“A ‘granny cam’ as they refer to it, would give them the ability to consistently check and monitor and hopefully the camera would also deter abuse and neglect,” he said.

Thurmond said non-profit and government-run nursing homes were receptive to the bill, but it faced major back lash from others.

“The for-profit ones were adamantly opposed to it and were not willing to negotiate or come to any solution whatsoever, and I think that speaks volumes to how they run their industry. They clearly understand that people are being abused in their system and it happens day in and day out. If we had this in place six years ago think about how many hundreds if not thousands of incidents could have been avoided,” he said.

Opponents said it’s an invasion of privacy. Shera and Thurmond believe if the resident and their family agree to it, it should be their right.

“Our seniors deserve better and our legislators can do this,” she said. “In the other few states that did it their legislators did it. Our legislators should care enough to do it and I hope your viewers will care enough about senior citizens to urge their elected leaders to act,” she closed.

Shera has since transferred her mother to a different care facility. Shem Creek Health Center denies any wrongdoing in Maxine’s case.

Shem creek health center has been made aware of allegations concerning one of our prior residents. We take all allegations and concerns very seriously.

We strongly deny these allegations. Unfortunately, we are not able to comment any more specifically in accordance with patient confidentiality requirements, however, our internal investigation did not reveal any inappropriate or sub-standard care or treatment and a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services survey team, which investigated these allegations, deemed each of them to be unsubstantiated.

Our Shem Creek Health Center staff members work diligently each and every day and are deeply committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of the residents with whose care we have been entrusted.

Shem Creek Health Center