Tips for Choosing a Secured Alzheimer’s Care Unit

By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 07 May 2012

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 6 in 10 individuals with dementia will wander at some point in the disease process.

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:

  1. Ask about the community’s response to alarms and search procedures should a resident elope.
  2. Ask if there are “backup” plans should the alarm system fail.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?


Search for Alzheimer’s care here.

There are 2 Comments about this post

  1. Michelle,

    I’m so glad that you mentioned item #3. In my way of thinking, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The number one way to prevent elopement is to engage residents in active programming. Consequently, it is vital that decision makers understand the process by which the unit looks to engage their loved one. If there is not an organized and active approach to insuring the needs of the resident (patient centered care) are consistently met, then it is time to look elsewhere. When it comes to the care of Alzheimer’s residents, there is no such thing as one size fits all.

    Thanks for giving sound and valuable advice to your readers out there.


    on 08 May 2012 / 2:11 PM

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and glad you’re in agreement on #3, Craig. Yes, absolutely — no such thing as one size fits all in this case.

    You’re most welcome. Always glad to have you stopping by our blog!


    on 08 May 2012 / 5:50 PM


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