License downgraded for assisted living home after resident wanders away, dies

Ruby Whedbee (Photo: Elizabeth City Police Department)

ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — One month after 90-year-old Ruby Whedbee was found dead a half mile from Brookdale Assisted Living, the state of North Carolina downgraded the facility’s license.

In a review, the agency said that “conditions in the home are found to be detrimental to the health and safety of residents.” In addition, the state ordered Brookdale to “suspend all admissions to the home effective immediately.”

Whedbee, who had documented dementia, was able to wander away from the facility without anyone noticing, according to a review conducted by the Pasquotank County Department of Social Services. The review found that the front doors to the facility were regularly unlocked and lacked alarms. That means people with dementia or confusion would not trigger an alarm if they tried to leave. It also found that a front desk near the front doors was sometimes left unstaffed. Whedbee was able to elope from the facility unnoticed for nearly an hour.

The review states that the facility failed to comply with state statutes and such failures resulted in Whedbee’s death.

The admissions suspension is set to continue, according to paperwork obtained by 10 On Your Side, until conditions or circumstances “merit removing the suspension.”

The state Division of Health Service Regulation has not yet made a determination on possible fines, but according to its website, fines for such violations can range from $1,000 to $20,000.

In an email, Heather Hunter, a senior public relations specialist with Brookdale Senior Living writes:

We are aware that the North Carolina Department of Human Services has restricted our ability to allow new residents to move into our community. Our community is cooperating and communicating with state regulators to timely address this matter.

The health and safety of our residents is our top priority and we are committed to enriching the lives of those we serve with compassion, respect, excellence and integrity.”