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Families with relatives at The Citadel share experiences

By Shavonne Potts

shavonne.potts@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Ronald Barber on Saturday attended a graveside funeral for his 98-year-old great-aunt, Dorothy Mildred Cleveland. She died this week while a resident at the Citadel, a nursing home facility on Julian Road, that has been the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“They didn’t notify me when she died,” Barber said in tears.

Barber, the power of attorney for his aunt, was notified by Noble and Kelsey Funeral Home the day after Cleveland died to say he needed to make arrangements for her. Cleveland died on Tuesday and her funeral was Saturday. Barber said he has unanswered questions, including why no one contacted him and whether his aunt was positive for the virus.

The nursing home, which is owned and managed by Accordius Health, has at least 96 people who have tested positive for the virus and an unknown number of deaths to which COVID-19 can be attributed. The Post reached out to a spokesperson from Accordius Health requesting comments, but did not receive a response by deadline Saturday.

While a lack of communication has been one sticking point for folks upset with The Citadel’s handling of the ongoing outbreak. Another local family has experienced different response from the Salisbury facility. Adam Foley, whose grandmother Margaret Maynard, 88, tested positive for COVID-19, says his family has been notified every step of the way.

The day Maynard’s positive test results were returned, Foley said, his family received a phone call.

He credits the open lines of communication between the facility and his family with the fact that his mother is a former employee.

But for Barber “the communication is terrible.”

He repeatedly called the facility and at one point, was left on hold.

“My wife just said, ‘hang up,'” Barber recalled.

Barber said he’s never received a phone call to notify him whether his aunt tested positive for COVID-19. The only call he received before her death was from a hospice nurse.

“It’s just bad enough she had to die by herself,” Barber said, “You’re supposed to go out in dignity.”

Barber said his aunt, who was his oldest living relative, was the “glue that held his family together.” After his parents died, Barber became his aunt’s primary caregiver. She’d been at the nursing home facility for about 14 months; he and his wife were both working.

When Cleveland became immobile, Barber and his wife had no choice but to place her into a nursing home.

Cleveland was a “Christian lady,” who “lured” him to church, Barber said. Cleveland was married to the late James Luther Cleveland. She worked primarily as a housekeeper but also worked for the former Aaron Chevrolet and Cone Mill.

Cleveland was born in Mecklenburg County and reared in Rowan County. When his aunt was in her prime years, she lived in New York. She had no children of her own, but she often babysat Barber’s children.

Now, Barber advises families to check on their loved ones.

“I’d hate to see this happen to anybody,” Barber said.

Foley said his maternal grandmother had been at the facility since 2011 — a time when it was known as Genesis Healthcare.

He said staff called his mother, who handles his grandmother’s medical affairs, to let her know that Maynard was positive for the virus but asymptomatic.

“The day she tested positive, they called my mom,” Foley said.

Foley said, although his family has been fortunate to receive regular updates about his grandmother, he feels as though all families deserve the same.

“I think that’s ridiculous. Information like that should be passed on right away,” Foley said.

Foley said he’s not certain his grandmother is cognizant of what’s happening at the facility because she’s had dementia for about 15 years. Foley said his grandmother doesn’t recognize him, his sister and mother. She also doesn’t hear very well, making regular phone calls to check up on her virtually impossible.

Before the facility was closed to visitors, he said, Foley and his family would visit as often as they could, with someone visiting his grandmother at least once a week.

“They’ve been pretty straight forward,” Foley said of the Citadel.

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