Workers at Alzheimer's Care of Commerce charged with abuse

  • Follow Crime & courts

Back | Next
A recently hired employee of Alzheimer's Care of Commerce waits as police search her car. More than 20 employees face dozens of criminal charges after state investigators raided the center on Tuesday.  BEN GRAY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
A recently hired employee of Alzheimer's Care of Commerce waits as police search her car. More than 20 employees face dozens of criminal charges after state investigators raided the center on Tuesday.

COMMERCE, Ga. — More than 20 employees of a Georgia assisted living center for people with Alzheimer’s disease face dozens of criminal charges after state investigators raided the center on Tuesday and uncovered allegations that employees had mistreated patients, authorities said.

The charges stem from a three-month investigation of Alzheimer’s Care of Commerce, a facility about 65 miles northeast of Atlanta, Georgia Bureau of Investigation officials said.

Agents executed a search warrant Tuesday morning to gather evidence at the center. Officials say the probe revealed allegations of physical abuse – such as staff members hitting patients and throwing water on them. Charges filed against the 21 employees include cruelty to people 65 or older, and involve accusations of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

Eleven employees were being held in the Jackson County jail as of Tuesday evening, and the facility’s owner had yet to surrender to authorities, GBI spokesman John Heinen said.

Twenty-seven people were being treated at the facility when authorities executed the surprise raid Tuesday, Heinen said. Three of them were hospitalized and Heinen did not have details on their medical conditions Tuesday evening.

State officials launched an investigation into the facility after multiple complaints were made by relatives of residents and employees, Heinen said. He added that the initial complaint was filed by an employee.

“Information obtained through the investigation indicated that patients were restrained with bed sheets and subjected to inhumane and undignified conditions to include ‘double diapering,’ which is a practice whereby multiple diapers were placed on the patients at once to keep the staff from changing soiled diapers as often,” the GBI said in a statement.

GBI agents said they also learned that patients were being cared for by people with felony convictions.

An August 2011 inspection report from the Georgia Department of Community Health listed five violations that state inspectors found at the facility – including workers not being subject to criminal background checks. An October 2011 report said state inspectors found no violations at the facility.

It’s unclear if employees with criminal backgrounds were hired at the facility after the second report was issued.

Department of Community Health spokeswoman Pam Keene said the agency had been working with law enforcement before Tuesday’s raid and had conducted its own investigation of the facility in late May.

“Following the May 21 investigation, DCH monitored the facility on a daily basis until the facility was in full compliance,” Keene said in a statement. “The department continued to work with law enforcement and other state agencies so each could fulfill their responsibility to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents.”

Keen said the department will continue working with authorities throughout the investigation.

Three Alzheimer’s Care of Commerce residents have died since January. Heinen said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s chief medical examiner is re-examining the residents’ medical records to determine if any additional investigation is necessary. State officials didn’t indicate there was anything suspicious about the deaths.

Telephone messages left at the center by The Associated Press Tuesday morning were not immediately returned.

The facility’s owner, Donna Wright, was also charged with cruelty to a person 65 Years of age or older; and abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and failure to report under the Protection of Disabled Adults and Elderly Persons statute, authorities said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Wright had an attorney.

Authorities coordinated with social service agencies to place residents in alternate homes, Heinen said.

Comments (8) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Farmboy 07/02/13 - 01:27 pm

Big brother is watching you.

Darby 07/02/13 - 02:45 pm
"The facility's owner, Donna Wright,

was also charged with Cruelty to a Person 65 Years of Age or Older"

Frankly, I'm offended. I'm over 65 and can hold my own just fine. What does age have to do with anything?

I can run, lift, climb and shoot as well as many men twenty years younger than I. Have I slowed down a bit over the years? I certainly have. But I'll be the one to say when some task is too much for me.

I was over 65 when I roofed my own house and when I ran cable through my attic. (Because I didn't trust the Comcast guy not fall through my ceiling.)

Now, if you want to charge some sociopathic scum with cruelty to a person of diminished capacity (who may or may not be over 65), then you've got my undivided attention and support.

The government should stop singling people out because of age and age alone. It's discrimination of the worst kind.

Sorry, things got away from me there. This post probably belongs in Rants & Raves.

Fiat_Lux 07/02/13 - 02:47 pm
It's not a great time to be a Boomer

because situations like this are going to become more and more common, and oversight will become more and more lax.

I suspect some of the "unintended" consequences of ObummerCare will be that the demented elderly will be quietly, gently and irrevocably put to sleep. The death certificate will read "heart failure" or "cardiac arrest" or "respiratory arrest", or some other catch-all cover for malignant neglect and euthanasia.

Red Headed Step Child
Red Headed Step Child 07/02/13 - 03:13 pm
Elder Abuse

@Darby - I hear ya! My mother can run circles around folks much younger than she!

I think the age specification comes from the Elder Abuse Laws - I guess you aren't considered an elder until you hit 65 - they must have had to have some age "starting point".

I personally am glad there are Elder Abuse laws. Certainly there are exceptions to every rule, but typically folks that are over 65 are vulnerable to all sorts of abuse - physical, mental , financial exploitation, etc. While all abuse is criminal in my opinion, if there are harsher punishments for those that abuse our elders based on whatever definition is applied, then that's OK in my book.

soapy_725 07/02/13 - 08:43 pm
Cameras are already in the patient's rooms.

The abuse continues.

Darby 07/02/13 - 09:20 pm
RHSC - I understand where you're coming

from. It's just that you can't scratch your ear without putting your elbow in the eye of some "protected" member of our society.

Women, blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals, "native Americans", Americans with Disabilities (which group includes alcoholics believe it or not), the elderly and SO MANY, MANY others.

All being groomed to turn to the government before even considering whether they have the means or ability to solve their own problems first.

I don't want to be "protected" like the snail darter, or the spotted owl. Particularly when placing me in that category does little more than empower politicians and enrich lawyers.

So, I hope you understand where I'm coming from. If I need help I will ask for it, but it will NEVER be based on some arbitrarily assigned number.

nocnoc 07/03/13 - 08:18 am
Inspect, check, and visit

Inspect, check, and visit randomly without a schedule period.

Our family having recently lost a family member to Alzheimer’s understands the torment and difficulty families having choosing a clean suitable Alzheimer’s focused facility.

We lost count on how many we checked out in the area and found understaffed, unsecured and yes filthy-dirty. We started wondering if the states had done telephonic inspections instead of onsite unannounced visits?

After a month we found 1 excellent facility up by Little River Bridge, but our family member did not meet their strict guidelines. Very good guidelines I might add.

One SC home facility we visited we found the CNA on duty sleeping in a chair in the TV area with the Alzheimer’s Patients.

One facility kept the Med's in a unlocked cabinet and available to anyone.

An another location smelled of urine or feces in every room we were shown.

We widen our search and finally were elated to find a good clean, and secure Alzheimer’s wing at a Thomson GA. Nursing home. The staff there treated our family member with great love, care and attention right up the last day. They even sent a flower arrangement for his widow.

The cost of a good Alzheimer’s care facility does not come cheap.
Just over $5300 a month. An if the person has the financial income or resources the FED's require it be liquidated before they help.

Without proper planning that leaves a spouse little of nothing to live on. Or they will be force to live with an Alzheimer’s person with grown aggression and paranoid.

Plan ahead, it is one of the hardest things to do for a spouse or a parent.

Some places count on that guilty feeling will minimize your visits. VISIT if you still care.

rmwhitley 07/03/13 - 10:25 am
I'm 64

and ready for some new parts.

corgimom 07/03/13 - 03:08 pm
I told my husband if I was

I told my husband if I was ever diagnosed with Alzheimer's, to take me to the Buster Boyd bridge (the one that goes over the Catawba River) and leave me in the middle of the bridge, I'd take care of the rest.

It is a hideous disease, no one deserves to have it.

To pay the bill of $5300, you would need an annual income of at least $80,000, and few seniors have that. There is no amount of planning that can provide for long-term catastrophic illness.

There is a big difference between euthanasia and letting people die a natural death- and letting God be God. This idea that "we must keep them alive at all costs, so they can lay in a hospital bed and rot" isn't love. That's about selfishness. It has nothing to do with religious beliefs.

There is nothing in any religion that says you need to do that, or even that you should.

Nobody needs to do euthanasia, all you have to do is let nature take its course. Nobody was meant to be tube fed, to be on respirators, to lay in the fetal position 24 hours a day. Nobody was meant to live with a destroyed brain.

And no rational human being would want that for themselves or a loved one. If you've ever been in an end-stage Alzheimer's ward, it's horrific.

I would never want that for myself, nor anybody that I love. Ever.

Darby 07/04/13 - 04:55 pm


But my personal solution wouldn't involve a bridge. It would be a lot quicker.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs