ANDOVER TOWNSHIP — Francesca Veen believes her video that went viral was the catalyst that enabled her to finally speak by phone with her grandmother, a resident of Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II.


“I am sick and tired of being told that I cannot talk to her,” Veen, 25 of Vernon, said in the video. “That I cannot see her (on video). We have not heard from her. We are told when we do get someone, she is sleeping and that she is OK. I want to talk to her.”


Veen has been critical of the Subacute II facility in videos and her Facebook cover photo, even calling for a shutdown of the facility. Veen has assured staff members, some of whom she said have threatened her, that she is not critical of their actions, but is upset with management. Those same employees, she said, have taunted her for her family placing Veen’s grandmother in the facility.


However, after making a Facebook video on April 16 that has garnered more than 16,000 views to date, in which she tearfully addressed the facility, she said she now has the ability to speak to her grandmother. She said she has gotten calls from staff, including FaceTime with a status about her grandmother when previously the family had no information.


The family had relied on communication from the nurse’s station in the facility where many residents including her grandmother suffer dementia and have no access to phones. The phone calls eventually dwindled to none.


Veen said her family was left with no answers about her grandmother, the family was on hold multiple times when they would call and were ignored, until she made the video. Now, one nurse, she said, will connect Veen to her grandmother via FaceTime while on her shift; and tells Veen when she is not in work, so Veen knows when not to expect calls.


Since Veen’s grandmother Francesca Pensallorto, 86, moved into Subacute II two years ago, Veen said she has had trouble with her grandmother’s care. Veen created a post in 2019 stating that new clothing she purchased for Pensallorto was ripped, hygiene products she purchased were missing and she complained that her grandmother’s neck was darkened from not being frequently washed. Veen said she was told some residents are showered once weekly, while others are not.


“You can smell the sadness and neglect there,” Veen said.


Veen said she has been employed for the past five years as a healthcare worker in a group home in the area for individuals with special needs and can identify abusive and neglectful situations. In the COVID-19 pandemic, Veen said when faced with an infected resident her facility took appropriate precautions, unlike at Subacute II, to ensure the safety of all residents, including the one who was ill. The family members of the resident were immediately notified and the resident was taken to an area hospital for “proper care,” Veen said.


“I could never allow that (improper care) to happen to one of my clients,” Veen said.


Veen said she has reported the issues with her grandmother to the State Department of Health, but said her concerns have gone unanswered. She questions why the state has issued so few citations and why the state has still permitted it to operate. Many in Subacute II, she also said, are wards of the state.


Veen said her cries to administrators have gone unanswered as well as the facility’s owner, with whom she said “there would be words.”


Veen said she hopes to one day become her grandmother’s guardian, having been told previously that she was too young. If she can become her legal guardian, she will remove her from the facility; and relocate with her grandmother to Arizona, her husband and children.


However, Veen continues to stress that the administration and ownership have permitted these incidents to occur, even citing a 2017 settlement the facility made for $888,000 with the Office of Inspector General, for allegations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud. As part of the agreement, Subacute II was directed to acknowledge ”that each resident has a right to a dignified existence, self-determination and communication with and access to persons and services inside and outside the facility.” The agreement also said the facility must “provide each of its residents the necessary care and services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being.” Veen questions why the state even permits the facility to continue operating after the Medicare and Medicaid allegations and the ongoing issues; and feels the two are tied, with many beds in Subacute II belonging to wards of the state on Medicare and Medicaid.


Andover Subacute II Administrator Cynthia Bradford has not responded to several requests for comment from the New Jersey Herald. Chaim Scheinbaum of Alliance Healthcare, one of the owners of the Subacute II and Andover Subacute I facilities, has forwarded all requests for comment to his attorney Christopher Porrino of Lowenstein Sandler, who has presently not responded to requests for comment from the Herald.


Veen has also had difficulty contacting the facility’s administration herself and the State Department of Health, stating neither have returned numerous calls about her grandmother.


“They (the administration and state) don’t want to listen,” Veen said. “It all falls on them.”


Jennifer Jean Miller can also be reached by phone at: 973-383-1230; on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/JMillerNJH and on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JMillerNJH.