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DHEC investigating West Ashley nursing home after Alzheimer's patient wanders away

Ashley River Plantation Assisted Living Facility (WCIV)

DHEC is investigating Ashley River Plantation for alleged violations, according to department officials.

The agency released a statement on Tuesday, just one day after a 62-year-old man was found at 2:30 a.m. wandering miles from his room at West Ashley assisted living facility.

Police were called to the nursing home on Ashley River Road on Saturday after John Haddon’s daughter called to report him missing.

According to a report, Haddon, an Alzheimer’s patient, never returned from his daily walk from one entrance of the parking lot to the other. That was around 6:00 p.m. on July 22. Police said he was found early July 24 near King and Huger Streets, almost 10 miles away.

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DHEC’s spokesman said a detailed report of its investigation will be provided once the inquiry is completed.

Meanwhile, Lowcountry lawmaker Wendell Gilliard said the incident proves more work needs to be done.

“We have to take better care of our seniors,” he said. “There's no question about it. When you look at what happened to this gentleman, we should never say that we're going to turn our heads or turn a deaf ear.”

Many medical experts believe patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia have child-like tendencies.

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When left unsupervised, especially near a busy highway like Ashley River Road, Gilliard said the worst could happen.

“One bad incident at these facilities is one too many, and some people just don’t get it,” Gilliard said.

Gilliard hosted a roundtable discussion Tuesday with local leaders and DHEC officials on the matter.

“What we have in South Carolina is surely a problem when it comes to our nursing homes and assisted living facilities,” Gilliard told the small crowd.

The bills he introduced this past legislative session regarding education, safety, and staffing in senior care centers failed, but he said it’s not the end.

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People at the meeting demanded more accountability too, but Gilliard said it’s a tough road ahead.

“When DHEC sends an inspector out to the place, they sugar coat things, sweep the floor extra, and tidy up things,” Gilliard said of the ways facilities interfere with DHEC’s ability to properly investigate. “In other words they get a false report.”

Many people at the discussion asked DHEC officials who is responsible for investigating claims of misconduct at assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

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DHEC officials said police handle those investigations.

Many who attended the event either work or used to work in these types of facilities. They said they have either witnessed or have heard from others who have seen elder abuse but choose not to report it out of fear of retaliation.

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