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Patients Continue To Wander Away From Adult-Care Facilities

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The state is investigating 40 deaths in the last year involving patients who have wandered away from adult-care facilities.

Look At Adult-Care Facilities In Wake County

Annie Jackson spent her life taking care of her kids, but as she got older, she needed someone to take care of her. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, her daughter, Mary Carpenter, made the difficult decision to place her in a home -- a decision she now regrets.

On April 23, 2005, according to a state report, Jackson walked out of Pine Tree Villa in Raleigh without anyone noticing. Three-and-a-half hours later, a passerby found her on a road a half-mile from the facility.

"What scared me is what could have happened to her," Carpenter said.

The state fined Pine Tree Villa $2,000. That is not the only incident involving a patient wandering away from an adult-care facility. In the same year in Chatham County, a patient from the Cambridge Hills of Pittsboro was found near the highway after wandering away. Cambridge Hills of Pittsboro was fined $6,000.

In Wake County at the Chatham Creek Rest Home, a patient wandered away. Chatham Creek Rest Home was fined $2,000.

"My biggest concern is it's going to happen more," said Alice Watkins, executive director of the Alzheimer's Association.

Watkins said with the aging population, long-term care facilities need to invest in better technology and training.

"Staffs of long-term care facilities are just not adequately trained," Watkins said. "They just don't have the education to teach them that these are things that are going to happen."

According to Wake County Human Services, workers at adult-care homes do not receive extensive training in Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. Personal care aides are required to take only an 80-hour course with just a small part dealing with dementia care.