A Collins woman has been arrested after she allegedly locked her 71-year-old mother-in-law in her bedroom while she went shopping, Erie County sheriff's officials said Wednesday.
Deputies arrested Ayleene Foster, 47, of Scrabble Hill Road, on Monday afternoon, charging her with endangering the welfare of an incompetent person after Adult Protective Service officials followed an anonymous tip and discovered Foster's mother-in-law locked in a first-floor bedroom.
Officials said the elderly woman, wearing a shirt and a soiled diaper, was lying on a soiled futon, had bed sores on her body and appeared dehydrated. She was taken to Lake Shore Community Hospital and then to Erie County Medical Center, where she remained in fair condition Wednesday.
Officials said deputies arrested Foster -- who lives with her husband, the woman's son -- because she said she locked the woman in the bedroom while she went shopping Monday.
"She was the one that was immediately responsible," Erie County Sheriff's Detective Bureau Capt. Ron Kenyon said, adding that others may be charged in the case.
The bedroom had no running toilet, and Kenyon said the woman had been without food and water for several hours. Deputies also found a note in the home expressing a family member's displeasure at the woman's presence in the home. Officials described the woman, who has dementia, as scared and disoriented.
"It's bad all around, but what's real bad is . . . that she suffered dementia," Kenyon said. "What if the house catches on fire?"
The woman moved 17 months ago from Georgia to Foster's home. Deputies investigating the case reported the woman appeared to have lost at least 125 pounds in the past year, although a sheriff's official did not believe Foster had kept the woman in such conditions for all of her stay.
Even if Foster only locked the woman in her room to go shopping, "You still can't do something like this," Kenyon said, adding that the arrest makes him wonder about how much elder abuse exists in the community.
Gavin Kasper, director of Erie County Adult Protective Services, said the most reliable figures indicate only one in nine elder abuse cases nationwide is reported to adult protective service agencies. Erie County case workers have handled more than 460 reported situations this year, he said, but not many result in arrests because of the difficulty of proving the existence of a crime.
"If you need to resort to locking someone in a room . . . it's not a good situation," Kasper said. "I would think that [a caretaker] should have the wherewithal to reach out and try to find some other option."
Sheriff's officials said the elderly woman remains in the care of Adult Protective Services.