Twenty-one people are being charged with abusing patients at an Alzheimer’s care center in Commerce — restraining them with bed sheets, throwing water on them and even “double diapering” them to save on changings, the GBI said Tuesday.
The suspects — current and ex-employees of Alzheimer’s Care of Commerce — are facing 72 charges, including cruelty to a person 65 years of age or older, abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and failure to report under the Protection of Disabled Adults and Elderly Persons.
They include Donna Wright, the center’s owner, the GBI said.
Search warrants were issued Tuesday for the center at 200 Bolton Drive in Commerce, according to a release from the GBI. At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, authorities said 27 patients were at Alzheimer’s Care of Commerce when 35 law enforcement swept in early Tuesday morning to execute a search warrant. GBI director Vernon Keenan said three of the patients were sent to hospitals, and the rest were being temporarily taken care of by 35 social workers and health care professionals.
According to the GBI, former and present employees have been interviewed and given detailed information on abuse of patients at the facility.
Among the findings, authorities said, were that:
— patients were restrained with bed sheets and were subjected to inhumane and undignified conditions;
— staff was “double diapering” patients, a practice whereby multiple diapers are placed on patients at once to keep the employees from changing soiled diapers as often;
— patients were subject to physical abuse, such as being struck or hit with water;
— employees had prior felony convictions for charges from voluntary manslaughter to drugs, even though state regulations prohibit convicted felons from working in a personal care facility;
— unauthorized personnel were administering medications to the patients;
— and medication prescribed to the patients were found to be missing or unaccounted for during an audit of the facility in May 2013.
On April 2, the Commerce Police Department asked the GBI to conduct an investigation of the center. Starting March 28, the department began receiving multiple complaints of elder abuse at the facility, Commerce Police Chief John Gaissert said in a statement Tuesday.
The current and former employees are facing more than 72 charges, the GBI said.
Numerous agencies assisted with the investigation. They include: the Commerce Police Department, The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office, the Georgia Department of Human Services Forensic Special Investigations, the Georgia Department of Revenue, the Georgia Healthcare Facility Regulation Division, the Georgia Department of Aging, Adult Protective Services, the Athens Community Council on Aging, U.S. Social Security Administration, and the Jackson County Emergency Medical Services.