However, it is important to remember that, even in a secured Alzheimer’s unit with an alarm system, the person may still wander or even elope. Staff, visitors, volunteers, vendors and outside health care professionals (like podiatrists or physical therapists) go in and out of the unit on a regular basis, which means doors may not always be locked.
While alarms should sound when certain doors are ajar, it is not impossible for residents to wander out. (Not to mention the fact that constant, shrill alarms can be startling and upsetting to the person with dementia, perhaps even triggering the elopement).
A recent piece in the Annals of Long Term Care speaks to this concern, and a LinkedIn discussion group took up the issue too, stating “No facility is elopement proof.”
Consider these tips when choosing a secured dementia unit:
- Ask about the community’s response to alarms and search procedures should a resident elope.
- Ask if there are “backup” plans should the alarm system fail.
- Ask to see the unit’s activity calendar, or during a tour of the unit, evaluate the engagement level of the residents and staff. Wandering tends to occur more frequently when the individuals with Alzheimer’s are restless or bored.
- Assess the layout and look of the unit. Does it make you feel confined or trapped, or is there ample space to roam without feeling the need to exit?