Rotarians enlightened on elder care issues

Published 5:52 pm Tuesday, May 19, 2015


GBI special agent, Steven Turner responds to a question from Rotarian Tommy Long after the meeting. — Carolyn Iamon

What do you do with residents of personal care homes when conditions warrant the removal of the owner or caretaker? That was the question raised by Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Special Agent Steven Turner, who oversees Region 9 from the office in Thomasville.

Turner cited a couple of examples in the Thomasville area where GBI was called in by local law enforcement to help. He spoke in detail at Tuesday’s Rotary meeting of some of the problems encountered, as well as the difficulty in addressing them.

The closing of hospitals that formerly cared for the disabled and challenged persons caused many individuals to begin operating personal care homes, sometimes referred to as independent living facilities, boarding houses, or homeless shelters.

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Turner made it clear that reputable personal care facilities are licensed, regularly inspected and doing what they are supposed to; but there are those who exploit the situations for their own benefit.

When investigation by local police departments indicates a problem, they invite GBI to make further investigation and arrests, if appropriate.

The first violation is considered a misdemeanor, (unless it involves abuse or exploitation, then it is a felony.) Subsequent violations are felonies.

Some of the violations investigated would be for abuse, either physical or sexual; unfit living conditions; false imprisonment (locking residents inside) criminal negligence (lacking climate control, adequate food and water, etc.) and abuse of medications, Social Security and food stamp benefits.

Turner said they made their first arrest in Thomasville last year and it was a problem to know what to do with the residents. They are mandated to leave no one behind that cannot take care of themselves; but if a person does not want to leave, you can’t make them. The alternative is to convince the operator to just close it down. Then they have to leave.

The rescue missions call upon the expertise and cooperation of many public and private agencies to come up with solutions.

At that point they must account for each resident and their belongings and transport them by buses to reputable care facilities.

Law enforcement and GBI have had to develop a protocol to help law enforcement in these situations.

The personal care homes in this area must have a protocol developed to help law enforcement. The mission states there will be an increased recognition, awareness of and response to at-risk adult abuse, neglect and exploited persons in Georgia.