CARY, N.C. — According to recommendations from Wake County, an adult-care center accused of letting a resident wheel himself into a street without anyone noticing has work to do.
Alterra is an adult-care facility in Cary that caters to Alzheimer's and dementia patients. It has an alarm in place if a patient wanders.
Investigators from Wake County Human Services said the Alterra staff ignored the alarm when 89-year-old Joseph Seidenberg wandered away in his wheelchair -- one in a series of mistakes the county claims Alterra staff made that night.
An investigation concluded that Seidenberg, an Alzheimer's patient, was able to wander away Jan. 10 because Alterra staff "did not go immediately outside" when the alarm sounded.
The report said Alterra employees did not know the "proper operation" of the alarm system. It also said personal-care workers in charge of Seidenberg were doing "laundry" at the time and that the facility was "short staffed."
Corinne Hill and a friend were driving by Alterra and saw Seidenberg unhurt, but on the side of a very busy Chapel Hill Road the night he got out.
Hill said she was concerned that night because she did not think Alterra even knew he was missing.
"It just really concerned me," Hill said. "They (Alterra personnel) looked really surprised, as if to say 'where was he,' when we took him back in his wheelchair."
Seidenberg's wife told WRAL on Jan. 14 that Alterra staff only told her part of the story, adding that she learned the full story from news reports.
"They told me they knew he was missing and that it took them 30 minutes to find him," said Seidenberg's wife, Ruth.
Ruth Seidenberg wants to know why she was not contacted as part of the investigation.
A spokesperson from Wake County Human Services did not want to go on camera. But she told WRAL that her staff should have called the family as a courtesy to the investigation.
The spokesperson said the law is set up in a way that requires county offices to police how facilities like Alterra take care of their residents.
The law does not require county offices to police how truthful facilities are with their residents' families in situations like the one involving Seidenberg.
As part of its report, Wake County is requiring the Alterra staff to learn the alarm system. The county also is recommending penalties that could mean fines from the state.
Penalties in some cases are a maximum of $10,000.
The women who found Seidenberg, as well as Seidenberg's family, have really pushed for action on this case. Even though Seidenberg was not hurt, it is the "what-if" that concerns them.