(KRON) — Three residents of an assisted living facility were mistakenly served dishwashing liquid as drinking juice and one has since passed away, KRON4 has learned.

The incident occurred at the Atria Park Senior Living facility in San Mateo. On Saturday morning around 8:30 a.m., three ambulances were called to the facility to treat patients, according to San Mateo Consolidated Fire. According to Atria Park, three people were transported to the hospital after “mistakenly being served dishwashing liquid as drinking juice,” the facility confirmed in a statement to KRON4.

KRON4 spoke with one family who says their loved one has passed away following the incident. Marcia Cutchin says that her family first heard of the incident involving her mother, Gertrude Elizabeth Murison Maxwell, 93, when an Atria staff member called to report that she had ingested a substance and an ambulance was being called.

Cutchin says that her mother, Maxwell, arrived at the hospital with “severe blistering of her mouth and throat and esophagus.” Cutchin says Atria told her family the substance was an, “alkaline cleaning solution that eats protein,” when they were first informed of the incident. From her first arrival at the hospital, Maxwell’s family was told there was nothing the medical team could do to treat the blistering.  

Cutchin said she and her family were told that first responders believed the dementia patients had ingested the substance on their own. Cutchin disputes this and maintains it would be impossible in her mother’s case because she cannot feed herself.

“Many people like my mother, you have to hold a cup to her mouth and tip it into her mouth,” Cutchin said.

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Maxwell leaves eight children and 20 grandchildren behind. The family was dismayed after Maxwell broke her hip due to a fall at the facility sometime in the past six months. When Maxwell was examined for that fall, an x-ray revealed that she had broken the hip twice in the past six months, but one had not been reported or treated, according to Cutchin.

Cutchin says that her family originally chose this facility because of its good reputation.

“That facility was very highly regarded and very expensive. You do those things to ensure that there’s a higher level of care,” she said.

Cutchin says that there needs to be a better system of checks to protect people in facilities like Atria, including installing more cameras.

“At any time people are allowed to act with impunity, there needs to be cameras,” she told KRON4.

KRON4 reached out to Atria Senior Living and received the following statement in response:

“We can confirm three of our residents were recently transported to the hospital after mistakenly being served dishwashing liquid as drinking juice. We have been working with local authorities, who have informed us that one resident passed away. Our sincerest condolences are with the family. When this occurred, our staff immediately contacted authorities, and the residents were transported to the hospital for evaluation and treatment.  We are conducting our own internal investigation, and the employees involved have been suspended until this investigation concludes. We will continue working with the police and Department of Social Services to fully review and assess the incident, after which we will take additional actions as needed. The safety and well-being of our residents remain our top priorities at all times. Out of respect for the people involved, we cannot comment further.”

Atria Senior Living

At this time, San Mateo Police are investigating the incident jointly with the California Department of Social Services Ombudsman. Police say Atria Hillsdale is cooperating with the investigation. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Sergeant Detective Paul Pak at 650-522-7660 or pak@cityofsanmateo.org.