Debbie Brown said her mother, Barbara, was best friends with Barbara Berry. The two women who shared a first name were always seen with one another in the halls of Parkside Manor, the Columbia nursing home where they lived. Brown called Berry "Miss Barb," a quiet but funny compliment to her mother's outspoken attitude.
"I brought in a big old thing of Chinese food, because my mom loves Chinese food," Brown said while reminiscing on a memory of her mother and Berry. "They were sitting there, and next thing you know, all of it's gone, between the two of them.
"Actually, that was two weeks prior to everything."
'Everything' happened on March 23, when Columbia police arrived at Parkside Manor to investigate Berry's death. The 77-year-old resident drowned in a whirlpool tub while bathing unattended. ABC 17 News reported on the state Department of Health's follow-up report, which cited Parkside Manor for not having a federally required alarm system in the bathing area where Berry died.
A medical examiner report ruled Berry's death accidental, and determined she died of drowning. A previous heart condition may have contributed to her death, according to Dr. Carl Stacy, causing her to fall unconscious while inside the bathtub.
Brown said Berry's death took a toll on her mother. She often changes the subject when Berry comes up, Brown told ABC 17 News. Brown said she hopes nursing homes across the state consider greater safety features in bathrooms and bathing areas like spas, such as audible alarms or live microphones nursing home staff can hear.
"My mom has fallen, I'm sure there's other residents that have fallen," Brown said. "There needs to be some kind of audio."
State investigators have issued two reports this year after resident deaths at Parkside Manor. In October 2017, forensic investigators noted a resident had five fentanyl patches on them when they died, exceeding the resident's prescribed limit. The state ordered the facility better monitor its medication distribution and fentanyl patch application.
Parkside Manor did not return a request for comment on Friday.
Brown said staff at Parkside Manor have always been responsive to complaints that she had. She hopes she can do something to make nursing homes safer across the state.
"That's my mom. I want to make sure that she's taken care of," Brown said. "We need to figure out how to make [nursing facilities] better than to bash them."