SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — Three Sandy Springs assisted living facility employees have been charged in felony elder abuse cases, with police noting two victims have died following altercations and a choking incident.
The employees, including a now-former executive director, worked at the Sandy Springs Place Senior Living Center on Hightower Trail, where police say the entire staff and management has been replaced.
Jeffrey Smith and Katrina Perkins were arrested and charged this week with felony elder abuse and neglect charges for two of the most recent incidents involving the lack of response to injured patients and feeding a patient food that resulted in a choking death. A third employee, Tiffany Taylor, was charged in August for an alleged assault and abandonment that resulted in a patient breaking his hip.
PROBLEMS DURING THE PANDEMIC
In May, Annette Simpson received a call from a medical technician who found her father Roy Onan, 82, had recently been telling Simpson that he was being fed, but she thought some of the claims were exaggerated due to her father’s Lewy body dementia condition. Simpson and her brother, like other families, were not allowed to physically check on their father because of COVID visitation restrictions.
On that Sunday afternoon, Simpson said the tech called to tell her she’d found her father in the hallway alone. He’d been fed that morning, but Simpson still doesn’t know how long he’d been alone in the hallway. When Onan was settled in his room, he called Sandy Springs police himself to report a staff member had pushed him.
Soon after, Onan was examined for a broken hip.
“And the doctors said ‘Annette, I believe him,’ and that just threw me,” Simpson told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr. “I said, ‘What?’”
After a state and police investigation, Taylor was charged for the assault. Taylor is facing aggravated battery and felony elder abuse and neglect charges.
Simpson said her father had a crush on Taylor’s daughter, who also worked in the facility. He insisted on talking to her when his food was brought to the room, and Simpson said Taylor lost her patience with the man.
“That was not a license to abuse and neglect and do these things that no one would do,” said Simpson, who said her father was never a physical threat to anyone. “If they’re saying things that are controversial, walk away.”
“To push him, it’s beyond me,” said Simpson. “My hope was that he was going to walk again and he was going to get his life back, and it just didn’t happen.”
Onan was transferred to another facility where he contracted COVID over the summer. He died last week.
In a separate April incident, police say the staff notified Smith and Perkins about a 79-year-old’s fall. A third-party nurse was brought in by the facility to examine the resident.
“They did not provide EMS and they did not notify the family members,” said Sgt. Salvador Ortega with the Sandy Spring Police Department.
A third-party nurse was brought into the facility to treat ulcers that the patient developed. Before his transfer to another facility, police say Perkins failed to perform a bedside “swallow test.” She fed the man a donut. He choked and died. In another incident this month, police say no one knows how long another patient was on the floor with severe injuries from a fight before family members were notified.
“The bottom line is, these cases are not common,” Ortega said. “They should not happen, and it’s a tragedy.”
Carr found Smith recently began a job overseeing a Canton assisted living facility. She left him a message there, and Smith’s attorney, Torris Butterfield, called with his client’s statement.
“He was the executive director, but he’s not guilty of the charges, and he’ll do everything to prove that,” Butterfield said.
Channel 2 was not able to immediately find contact information for Taylor and Perkins, but the Chicago-based management group overseeing Sandy Springs Place acknowledged ongoing investigations in a statement.
“We take very seriously our responsibility for the wellbeing and the privacy of our residents, their families, and our employees,” said Louis Kievit, VP of sales and customer engagement for the Enlivant Group. “We have cooperated fully and will continue to cooperate with state and local authorities in their investigation, as necessary. As this is currently a legal matter and in consideration of our residents' privacy rights, we do not have any additional information to provide at this time.”
Carr has been in contact with families of the victims, who say they want to raise awareness about elder care during the pandemic. A fourth family said the state is now investigating abuse claims involving the facility and her father who transferred out this week. Simpson said if it hadn’t been for that medical technician, she doesn’t know how she would found out about her father’s fall and alleged assault.
“You need to be in constant contact,” said Simpson. “You need to have that relationship (with staff).”
© 2020 Cox Media Group