CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Jennifer Martin and Norma Duncan still enjoy looking at pictures on their phones from when they were Certified Nursing Assistants at Brookdale Midlothian.
“That’s me and her again, she just loved all her little sweaters with all her little designs,” Martin said about one of her former residents.
The cousins worked as CNAs at the assisted living facility for more than a year.
“I feel like they really thought of us as their grandchildren,” Martin said.
“We’re all that they have so you try to make their day the best as possible,” Duncan said.
But, they said bringing comfort to the residents, many of them in the throes of dementia, became more and more difficult.
“They are truly kind hearted people, but they don’t deserve the care they are receiving,” Duncan said.
Brookdale Midlothian is one of more than one-thousand communities owned by the nation’s largest long term care provider: Brookdale Senior Living.
CBS 6 investigated the Midlothian branch after Carol Garbo told us her mother fell more than 12 times in the 11 weeks she lived there, requiring five visits to the ER.
“It’s truly sickening to see what happened to that woman,” Duncan said.
Martin said she spent most of her time working in the Memory Care Unit with just one other CNA during her shift before she quit in 2015.
“You have to watch almost 30 residents and there are two people on the floor and the med tech is busy passing medicine. There is no way you can keep an eye on every single resident,” Martin said. “I’ve seen so many falls.”
As for Duncan, she worked on the assisted living floor.
She said when she first started, there were three CNAs scheduled for that unit, but, ultimately, that number was reduced to two.
“You can’t expect two people to run the whole upstairs building as well as two people downstairs, there are just way too many people,” she said.
Duncan said the quality of care quickly dropped because the staff was overwhelmed.
She said people started pulling their loved ones out of the facility, which made things more difficult because they started accepting people who she felt needed a different type of care.
“I mean there was people that, you know, they expected you to do on your own, that are completely nursing home level,” Duncan said.
We have learned Virginia law only requires assisted living facilities to have one staff member awake and on duty in each building when at least one resident is present, and just two direct care staff members awake and on duty in the dementia unit, no matter the number of residents.
Still, facilities are required by law to provide staff adequate in knowledge, skills and abilities, and sufficient in numbers, to maintain the physical, mental and psychosocial well-being of each resident.
As we have previously reported, the state is investigating staffing levels at Brookdale Midlothian.
The state also requires that long term care facilities make sure their CNAs receive at least 12 hours of annual training, including four hours of special training if they are caring for dementia patients.
“I didn't get any training on the dementia, how to talk to them, I just had to go off what I thought was right,” Martin said.
In our original story, Garbo said Brookdale told her she would have to pay for a 24-7 caregiver after her mother’s numerous falls.
Duncan said that happened frequently, and families should not have been put in that position.
“If they're being accepted into this facility, and paying thousands of dollars, or whatever they’re paying for that resident, it should be on us. If they need more care we need to hire somebody else,” Duncan said.
Despite the challenges, Duncan said she would have stayed at Brookdale, but she had to relocate to Roanoke last year.
But, she said she still worries about her former residents.
“You think about it every night before you go to sleep, I wonder what they’re doing, I wonder what kind of care they’re receiving,” Duncan said.
Martin said she worries too, and said people should seek long term care elsewhere, unless changes are made.
“I could never imagine someone sending their parent there knowing what I know about this place,” Martin said.
We reached out to Brookdale Senior Living and told them that several former employees had expressed concerns about staffing levels and other issues at the Midlothian facility.
They declined to give us an interview, but Dana Schroering, a Senior Communications Specialist at Brookdale Senior Living, sent a statement that reads:
“With the safety, security and wellbeing of our residents as our highest priorities, our leadership team recently met with current residents and family members to introduce our new Health and Wellness Director and to reinforce open communication between the community leadership team and those we serve. We recognize there may be areas for improvement within our community and our team is actively analyzing and enhancing the staffing levels, skills, and training programs to deliver on our promise of providing quality care appropriate for the unique needs of all of our residents.
We are also working with the Virginia Department of Social Services to put a plan in place to address the state’s recommendations related to our most recent state visit. We look forward to welcoming the Commonwealth back into our community to review changes and follow up with our residents and family members to verify that we’re meeting the high standard of care and customer experience they expect and deserve.”