Family learns of NY nursing home resident’s death of coronavirus from funeral home

CHITTENANGO, N.Y. (WSTM/CNN) - The family of a 73-year-old woman who lived at a New York nursing home says they learned about her death from a funeral home on the same day they learned she had COVID-19.

Kaye Couse, far right, is being remembered as a caring woman who would do anything for people after her death from COVID-19 at 73. (Source: Couse Family/WSTM/CNN)

The family of 73-year-old Kaye Couse held a small graveside ceremony Tuesday at Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York. They remembered the woman, who died last Wednesday from COVID-19, as caring, saying she would do anything for people.

"We were more than sisters. We were friends. We went to the senior center together. We went out to lunch together. We went to the movies," said Lynne Couse, Kaye’s sister.

But Kaye Couse’s family is still shocked by how they learned the news of her death. They had been worried about the 73-year-old, who had been living at The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing home in Chittenango for about eight years, because they couldn’t go visit in person due to COVID-19 safety precautions.

Then, last Wednesday, Lynne Couse received two calls, one from the Grand and one from Schepp Family Funeral Homes, that broke her heart.

"I got a call in the morning, saying that she had tested positive for COVID, but she didn't show any signs and symptoms. They were going to isolate her. This was around 9 o’clock," Lynne Couse said. “Then, I got a call from the funeral home at 12:41, asking me what I wanted done with her body. I figured there was a mistake."

Funeral director Michael Small says he had no idea he’d be breaking the news of Kaye Couse’s death to her family.

"It makes you feel bad that you're the one passing the bad news to a family member, calling from a funeral home when they haven't been notified about the death or know anything about the death," he said.

Bruce Gendron, vice president of the Grand, says one staff member was told to notify Kaye Couse’s family of her death, and one staff member was told to call the funeral home to start arrangements. The funeral home reached the family by phone first, he says.

Still, Kaye Couse's family is pushing for more transparency from the nursing home.

"Maybe we can help somebody else by giving our story," Lynne Couse said.

New York state data shows 46 residents at The Grand in Chittenango, more than half of the nearly 75 living there, and 10% of the workforce have tested positive for COVID-19. As of Monday, only one person at the 80-bed facility had died from the coronavirus.

Copyright 2020 WSTM, Couse Family via CNN. All rights reserved.