GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids woman says she is being shut out of the adult care facility where her husband lives, unable to make sure he’s being taken care of, as the facility says it’s following by state mandates to try to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Hank Minnema is a husband and father who was an EMT with Life EMS, assigned alongside state police and sheriff’s deputies. Then, in his early 50s, he developed early onset dementia.
“It’s been difficult to watch the decline,” his wife Cindy Minnema said.
Hank Minnema stopped working in 2013. In March of last year, his wife decided he needed the care of an adult care facility.
“Now I say he’s more like a 5-year-old,” she said.
After much searching, she and her children settled on the former Whispering Woods, now known as Addington Place off East Paris Avenue south of Burton Street SE. He was moved to independent living, where he was to get meals, cleaning and a safe place to live.
“This place had really stressed to us over and over and over that they were trained with someone in his situation,” Cindy Minnema said.
Hank Minnema’s 35-year-old daughter Crystal Minnema said the decision was not easy, but he needed the quiet and security.
“They assured us that they’ve had multiple cases and that they were very knowledgeable,” Crystal Minnema said.
Then came the coronavirus pandemic.
“They told me on March 17 that they had ceased cleaning that building. We have a virus and you’re not going to clean? ‘Well, your husband will have to clean, ma’am,’” Cindy Minnema said she was told. “And I said, ‘If my husband was capable of cleaning, would he be living here?'”
She said her husband’s dementia impacts some of his decision-making, including whether he flushes the toilet. She produced a photo of what she says is the filthy toilet in his apartment. She said the food also worsened, so she had Meals on Wheels deliver food and hired a cleaning service.
After that, she says, she was told she could not go to see her husband even though she claims she is his caregiver and that is allowed under the governor’s order.
“I’m not going in there with her. It’s not our whole family. She’s just trying to go there and check on his welfare because is nobody else is,” Minnema’s daughter said. “We don’t know what to do here because they aren’t listening to us when we show the executive order showing it’s OK for my mom to go in and do some light cleaning and leave.”
“It’s scary to us that nobody is checking on the welfare of my dad or these people,” she continued.
Kay Scholle is a state of Michigan long-term care ombudsman overseeing licensed facilities. Because the unit Hank Minnema lives in unlicensed, she said the situation that the Minnemas find themselves in is more like a landlord/tenant situation.
“It’s really challenging and frustrating because I can’t really do anything other than provide resources,” Scholle said. “Really the only thing that you have is your contract. What does your contract say with that facility?”
The state ombudsman for West Michigan can be reached at 616.245.9451 or online at mltcop.org.
“They need to accommodate her in some way so that she can be sure that he is getting the care that he needs,” Scholle added.
In a statement to News 8, facility manager Kat Hartley denied there has been any reduction in cleaning or meal quality and said it was the family’s decision to keep Hank Minnema in an independent living unit even though management offered to move him.
She wrote that the facility is abiding by the state’s mandate for limited contact in keeping visitors out.
“In our careful assessment of the situation, Ms. Minnema does not fall under any of the exceptions to Governor Whitmer’s visitation ban,” the statement reads. “We are putting the safety and security of the residents first and foremost and stand behind our current policies.”