A former caregiver at a Sunrise Senior Living facility in Alexandria who fell asleep on the job has been sentenced to 45 days in jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of neglecting an incapacitated resident, prosecutors said yesterday.
Elizabeth Thorpe-Saffa, 54, of Alexandria was sentenced Tuesday in Alexandria General District Court to 180 days in jail, with all but 45 days suspended. Judge E. Robert Giammittorio ordered her to report to the courthouse Nov. 30 to begin serving her sentence.
State records show about 4,400 cases of abuse, neglect or exploitation in assisted living facilities since 1995, but the workers responsible are rarely prosecuted, officials said.
"I really feel very strongly about the responsibility that these people who work in these facilities have," said Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Krista Boucher, who prosecuted the case against Thorpe-Saffa. "It's important that they know this statute exists, that there is a consequence to seriously negligent performance of that responsibility and we're not afraid to use it."
Thorpe-Saffa was fired from Sunrise shortly after the incident July 31 when police were called to the facility at 3520 Duke St. and found two residents in distress -- one man lying on the floor calling out for help, another resident having trouble with a catheter. The man called 911 out of frustration.
Police responded at 2:55 a.m., but the after-hours call button, telephone calls and their cruiser sirens did not get the attention of caregivers inside.
Once police were able to enter the facility, they found Thorpe-Saffa asleep in a first-floor room, an audible burglar alarm blaring.
Another employee, who did not show up for work that day, also was fired.
Thorpe-Saffa was charged with two counts of abuse and neglect of an incapacitated adult. Each count is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of as much as $2,500.
Prosecutors agreed to pursue only one count against Thorpe-Saffa in exchange for her guilty plea. Prosecutors said yesterday that the details of her incarceration are being hammered out. They said she could be eligible for work-release or in-home incarceration.
A telephone message left yesterday at the address listed on Thorpe-Saffa's arrest warrant was not returned.