Betty Perloe had worked as a nurse before she retired. At her children’s urging, when she was 91 Betty Perloe moved from Florida to a Sandy Springs assisted living facility. She died at age 92, days after an ant infestation in her room left her with multiple ant bites, according to a lawsuit. 

Lawsuit: Ant bites left 92-year-old suffering at assisted living home

Days before she died, ants repeatedly found in woman’s bed and on her body at upscale Sandy Springs facility

A 92-year-old resident of a Sandy Springs assisted living facility died last fall after ants bit many areas of her body, her family says in a new lawsuit.

Betty Perloe and her personal aide saw ants in Perloe’s bathroom and closet at Somerby Senior Living of Sandy Springs and the aide reported the infestation to staff.

But a week after the report, Perloe was found suffering from bites, with ants on her body and in her bed. In response, Perloe was moved from her bed, her bed was dusted off and clothing was removed from an ant-infested closet, according to the suit filed in Gwinnett County State Court.

Then the next day, Perloe was found again with ants on her body and pus-filled bites across her midsection, underneath her breasts and on other areas, the suit says.

Perloe, a retired nurse, was “agitated,” “moaning” and “scratching” the blistered areas, according to the lawsuit, and she was put on morphine and other pain medications.

“She was in tremendous pain,” said her son Ross Perloe, who lives in the Atlanta area.

She died days later.

Alabama-based Somerby Senior Living, which operates the facility, did not respond to requests for an interview.

Prior to the bites, Perloe had a variety of serious health issues and was on hospice care, but she was stable, her family said.

“Her death was accelerated and her suffering was increased because of this,” said Dr. Mark Perloe, another of Perloe’s sons, who also lives in the Atlanta area.

Lance Lourie, the attorney representing the family, said the most important aspect of this case is not that Perloe’s death was accelerated. “It’s about the way she died, in an undignified and painful way that was unnecessary.”

Somerby runs a chain of senior living communities in the southeast region, according to its website. The chain promotes itself as a high-quality operator.

“Somerby Senior Living residents often say that living here is a lot like being on a cruise ship,” the company’s website said. “Whether it’s our activities, upscale amenities or fine dining, we do whatever it takes to help our residents enjoy every day.”

Betty Perloe was dealing with a number of health issues when she lived at Somerby Senior Living. But she spent her final days in pain after she was repeatedly bitten by ants. 

Betty Perloe was 91, widowed and living in Florida when her children suggested she move to an assisted living facility in the Atlanta area. She had been a fastidious housekeeper and had spent her life caring for others, both as a nurse and caregiver for her husband and friends who had fallen ill, her sons said.

The family wanted a facility with high standards for their mother and liked what they saw at Somerby, which they described as a beautiful facility.

“At places like Somerby, long-term care facilities, the quality of life and preservation of that quality of life as long as possible is what they’re really being paid to do,” said Lourie, the attorney.

The monthly fees for Perloe’s care were about $4,800 at first, the family said, and increased to more than $6,300 with memory care and medication management services. When she moved in, the family was hopeful. “We were paying top dollar and it looked like we were going to get top dollar care for her,” Mark Perloe said.

But Perloe’s sons and her daughter said the facility failed to live up to its promises to provide their mother with top-notch care. “She shouldn’t have had to suffer,” Ross Perloe said.

Inspection reports posted to the Georgia Department of Community Health’s website show that the state conducted four inspections at the Somerby Sandy Springs facility between April 2017 and September 2018 and found no violations at any of those inspections.

But Ross Perloe told the AJC he recently filed a complaint with the state over the ant issue. The lawsuit claims the assisted living community violated state requirements to control insects and pests and keep the facility clean to protect the health of residents.

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