Off the News: News comes at us fast these days. We no sooner learn about one event or problem before something else takes its place. But what happens to the people who are impacted by the policies and events that make the news? This is the first in an ongoing series of visual stories in the CT Mirror that follow up with people whose lives have been impacted by the policies we cover.  

Last month, 94 nursing home residents had to search for new homes with very little warning when their Wallingford facility, the Quinnipiac Valley Center, was shut down by the state. Three residents at the home had died within 30 days of each other, and one of the three had a heart attack after staff failed to administer her medications for several days.

A state Department of Public Health investigation found multiple life-threatening violations in addition to the medication mistake, including treating COVID patients without wearing the proper personal protective equipment.

Brooks said he worries about other residents with more disabilities in the previous nursing home adjusting to the change. “Every day since I’ve been here, every hour, every minute, I’ve been worried about them,” Brooks said. “They’re gonna wake up and they’re not going to see their regular nurse.” Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

Gregory Brooks was one of the residents who was forced to leave the Wallingford nursing home. He was reluctant to leave — he’d lived in his room for eight years, and every object had a story behind it. Although his first choice for a new nursing home was full, he was accepted at a nursing home in North Haven that exceeded all his expectations.

“It was just beyond my wildest dreams that I would get a room like this,” Brooks said, referring to his new living space, which is equipped with a bathroom, a microwave and a refrigerator.

“It’s the beginning of a new book,” Gregory Brooks said of his situation at the new nursing home. Brooks reads the Bible to find meaning. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
Gregory Brooks looks at a photo of him with his friend at a wedding ceremony. “I’m not a number,” Brooks said. “Everybody in this building has got a story.” Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
Gregory Brooks looks at an old picture of himself. “People forget about nursing homes. Once you get old, you’re kind of neglected. We’re not a real big voting bloc,” Brooks said. “I never realized that until I wound up in a nursing home.” Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

But all of the sudden changes are still confusing for Brooks, who prides himself on his sharp mind.

“When I wake up in the morning, first time I open my eyes, I don’t realize where I am. I’m like back in my old room, and I’m reaching for things and looking for things,” he said.

And while he likes the care he’s receiving at his new home, he said he has lost trust in government because of the lack of oversight when the nursing home served as a COVID-19 recovery center and for making the sudden decision to close the Quinnipiac Valley Center without consulting residents.

Brooks often gets anxious, wondering if he will have to move to another facility again. So, for now, he is unpacking just one box at a time and moving his belongings to the same spots they occupied in his previous room.

Brooks thinks the tragedies that happened at his previous nursing home could happen at any nursing home. “Too many patients and not enough nurses, not enough staff. That’s the problem,” he said. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
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Yehyun joined CT Mirror in June 2020 as a photojournalist and a Report For America Corps Member. Her role at CT Mirror is to tell visual stories about the impact of public policy on individuals and communities in Connecticut. Prior to joining CT Mirror, Yehyun photographed community news in Victoria, Texas and was a photo and video intern at USA TODAY and at Acadia National Park in Maine. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Yehyun was born and raised in South Korea.