Calverton family questions nursing home’s letter to grandma who got COVID there and died

A mourning Calverton family received a letter last month from a local nursing home asking their late matriarch to complete a survey about her stay.

Lyudmila Turok, 81, was admitted into Acadia Center in Riverhead free of COVID-19 on Dec. 1, her family said in a letter it returned to the facility and shared with the News-Review. Ms. Turok, who suffered from dementia, had recently fallen and fractured her shoulder and was rehabbing the injury at the Woodcrest Avenue facility after a stay at Peconic Bay Medical Center.

Ms. Turok tested negative for the coronavirus both before and immediately after her arrival at the rehab center, family members said. She was not allowed visitors and was to only have contact with Acadia staff, they added.

About three weeks into her stay, Ms. Turok, whose family said she had fallen several more times at the facility, was having difficulty communicating and was transferred back to PBMC, where she tested positive for COVID-19. She died Dec. 30, according to her family.

In early February, the letter from Acadia arrived at the home she shared with her daughter and son-in-law. 

“I hope this finds you well and feeling better,” began the letter from Acadia administrator Mary Ann Mangels, which was dated Feb. 8, nearly six weeks after her death. 

Last week, Ms. Turok’s granddaughter, Anna Murphy of Riverhead, sent a reply on behalf of the family detailing concerns about her grandmother’s stay and asking the center to improve its record keeping. 

Ms. Murphy said in her letter that the family blames Acadia for “my grandmother contracting the COVID-19 virus and subsequently dying from it.”

“Her death certificate lists it as the cause of her death,” she wrote.

Reached by email for comment this week, Ms. Mangels said she believed the letter was a one-time mistake.

“These have been stressful times for all of us and, unfortunately, a mistake was made,” she said.

While she declined to discuss the specifics of Ms. Turok’s stay, Ms. Mangels said “all residents were tested weekly for COVID.” 

“If a resident is found to be positive for COVID after transfer to the hospital, as well as expirations, and we are notified, we report it to DOH,” she wrote.” Our admissions department follows up with the hospital routinely.”

Ms. Turok’s grandson, Alex Sakhno, said it was often difficult to get in touch with his grandmother while at Acadia. The only option to see her was through a window, which the family feared would be difficult for someone with dementia to understand. But they also had trouble reaching her by phone.

“If you wanted to talk to Grandma, you had to call three to four times,” Mr. Sakhno said. “A lot of times they would say she was fatigued or she’s not able to come to the phone.”

He said he felt it was important to share Ms. Turok’s story to give other families a clearer picture of issues popping up at nursing homes during COVID-19.

Mr. Sakhno said the letter from Acadia Center arrived around the same time his family, and all New York residents, were receiving a clearer picture of the number of nursing home deaths across the state. On Feb. 4, the New York State Department of Health released updated fatality statistics following a report in the New York Post that nursing home deaths were 50% higher than reported. The updated report showed Acadia Center had 40 deaths, double the previously disclosed 20. 

Mr. Sakhno said if the family had a clearer picture of nursing home deaths “[Ms. Turok] would not have gone” there for rehabilitation.

Ms. Mangels said in an email last month that Acadia disclosed all deaths to the Department of Health and the discrepancy was in how the state reported those numbers to the public. She said the facility had two outbreaks of COVID-19, the first in May and the second in November. She reiterated this week that the facility has “always strived to be as accurate as possible with our reporting to the state.”