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Top 5 Safety Considerations for Alzheimer’s Disease in Memory Care

Merritt Whitley
By Merritt WhitleyAugust 12, 2020
Elderly man pushing his panic button necklace to summon a memory care nurse.

Families often seek the professional care and secure environment of memory care to ease worries about their loved one’s safety. From keypad entries to carefully placed emergency buttons to purposeful designs, memory care communities use many technologies and protocols to prevent wandering, confusion, and injuries among residents — and each community is different.

We asked Brenda Gurung, a certified dementia practitioner for the Alzheimer’s Association and a senior national account manager at A Place for Mom, to highlight memory care features to look for that address top safety considerations for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

1. Security systems

Memory care communities employ various security systems at the building’s entrances and exits to monitor who enters and to prevent residents from leaving unattended.

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Communities aim to balance dementia safety considerations and supervision while maintaining the privacy and dignity of residents, says Gurung. 

Security options may include:

  • Keypad entrances for family and staff
  • Gated gardens
  • Secure coded doors
  • Outdoor patio fences
  • Enclosed courtyards
  • Doorbells at entrances and exits

2. Emergency technology for staff and residents

Staff members are on duty 24/7 in case of emergencies in memory care. Additionally, apartments are equipped with emergency buttons or call systems for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia and staff to use.

“It’s quite common to have an emergency button in the apartment,” says Gurung. “The staff and residents can utilize it in the bathroom or bedroom depending on the placement.”

Many communities also offer emergency pendants, which sometimes have GPS capabilities. To help ensure direct and timely communication in emergencies, staff may use technology like:

  • Phones
  • Pagers
  • Two-way radios or walkie-talkies

3. Assistive building features for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Memory care communities generally have widened doors and defined shared spaces for easy navigation. There’s often a private, secure section for storing a resident’s beauty products, according to Gurung. This security measure prevents residents with dementia from accidentally ingesting toxic products.

Additional safety considerations include:

  • Coded and secured doors that may be painted with a mural to blend in
  • Secured windows that only open a few inches
  • Soundproof walls to alleviate sundown syndrome symptoms
  • Motion sensors in rooms to alert staff of falls or wandering

4. Custom-built memory care floor plans

The custom layouts of memory care facilities include easy-to-navigate floor plans with built-in features to reduce Alzheimer’s-related confusion and wandering.

Features to ensure safe navigation may include:

  • Color-coded hallways
  • Flowing floor plans
  • Non-repetitive hallways
  • Clearly marked exits

5. Fall prevention features

Falls are the leading cause of injury and injury death in adults age 65 and older, reports the CDC. Community features designed to prevent falls include:

  • Elevators
  • Handrails and hard flooring, which provide stability
  • Sit-to-stand lifts and other transportive medical equipment
  • Emergency buttons
  • Special lighting in the bathroom

“The bathroom can be a risk at night if a resident wakes up to use the restroom and stumbles because of lighting, or doesn’t use the toilet properly, because their vision and depth perception are affected. Some communities have a motion-sensitive light in the restroom,” says Gurung.

If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia and you’re worried for their safety, it may be time to consider memory care. Our Senior Living Advisors can answer questions and help arrange in-person or virtual tours to learn more about a particular community’s features to protect residents and provide peace of mind. 

Merritt Whitley
Author
Merritt Whitley

Merritt Whitely is an editor at A Place for Mom. She developed health content for seniors at Hearing Charities of America and the National Hearing Aid Project. She’s also managed multiple print publications, blogs, and social media channels for seniors as the marketing manager at Sertoma, Inc.

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