DHEC investigates Chester County senior living facility after resident went missing

DHEC has launched an investigation into a Chester County senior living facility after a resident was reported missing for several days.

Officials say 79-year-old Judy Pate walked away from Helms-Gordon Residential Care in Fort Lawn on Sept. 13. She was rescued from a wooded area near Cemetery Road three days later.

In its investigation, DHEC found that the “facility failed to take precautions for residents with special conditions.”

In the report, the director of the facility said that around 8:30 a.m., Pate got dressed and went to the dining area for breakfast before returning to her room.

Around 11:15 a.m. a staff member went to Pate’s room to get her ready for lunch, however she was not there, according to the investigation. The staff member asked Pate’s roommate where she was and the roommate told the staff member that they did not know, according to the investigation.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Facility investigated twice before elderly resident rescued from nearby woods, state officials say

The director said two employees then went outside to look for Pate around the premises while another employee searched for her inside the facility.

After reviewing security footage, it was revealed that Pate left the facility through a door located in the dining room. The facility then contacted law enforcement and Pate was reported missing around 1 p.m., according to the report.

The director said a search was started to locate Pate. She was eventually found about a mile away from the facility on Cemetery Road.

DHEC said the facility failed to immediately notify law enforcement that a cognitively impaired resident had left the premises.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Woman reported missing from senior-living facility in ‘good spirits’ after being found

In a statement, the Pate family said they were “disgusted and upset with the findings.”

“The Pate family has received and reviewed the results of the initial investigation into the Helms-Gordon Facility performed by DHEC. To say they are disgusted and upset with the findings would be an understatement. Helms-Gordon was cited multiple times for violations of the State imposed standards of care. The investigation indicates that Ms. Judy was missing for hours before anyone at Helms-Gordon was even aware. Furthermore, the investigation states that upon discovering that Ms. Judy was missing, Helms-Gordon waited hours before contacting the Chester County Sheriff’s Office. This delayed response to authorities is abhorrent and unforgivable. We intend to pursue every avenue of justice to ensure that no other person or family has to undergo this type of nightmare due to the inactions of an irresponsible facility.”

DHEC said Helms-Gordon Residential Care in Fort Lawn was cited for violating standards.

(WATCH BELOW: Woman reported missing from senior-living facility in Chester County found, deputies say)