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

Written by Merritt Whitley
 about the author
5 minute readLast updated January 6, 2022

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

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We asked Brenda Gurung, a certified dementia specialist for the Alzheimer’s Association, to highlight the top memory care features to look for — including safety considerations for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

1. Security measures in memory care communities

Communities aim to balance dementia safety considerations and supervision while maintaining the privacy and dignity of residents, says Gurung. To prevent residents from leaving unattended,  employ various security systems at the building’s entrances and exits.

Security options may vary based on the community’s staff, size, and location. To help ensure resident safety, security measures might include:

  • Keypad entrances for family and staff
  • Gated gardens
  • Secured, coded doors
  • Outdoor patio fences
  • Enclosed courtyards
  • Doorbells at entrances and exits
  • Automated fire prevention systems
  • Video surveillance systems

If you’re especially concerned about your loved one’s security, look for communities with video surveillance. Video surveillance systems can prevent unwelcome guests and help communities hold their staff to the highest standard. Cameras can be used to monitor staff and make sure they follow proper protocols, which improves quality of care for residents.

2. Emergency technology for staff and residents

Memory care staff members are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case of emergencies. Additionally, apartments are equipped with emergency buttons or call systems.

“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.”

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Memory care communities prioritize your loved one’s safety by doing their best to provide direct and timely communication in emergencies. To this end, staff may also use technology features like:

  • Senior-friendly phones
  • Pagers
  • Two-way radios or walkie-talkies
  • Emergency pendants and bracelets that may have GPS capabilities

Recently, some memory care communities have implemented Alzheimer’s safety products, such as sensor-powered, wrist-worn devices with predictive care. CarePredict’s Tempo detects your loved one’s daily movements, indoor location, and ambient room information to anticipate emerging health problems. Through learning your senior’s daily schedule and environment, the wearable device can detect elopement, falls, malnutrition, and more. It will automatically alert their care team of potential health risks, so they can take action before it’s too late.

3. Assistive features for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia

Memory care communities are usually purposefully built to offer your senior loved one assistance and comfort while giving you peace of mind that they are safe. From calming designs to intentional architecture, added assistive measures may 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
  • Adjustable beds for seniors with low mobility  

Memory care communities will generally have defined spaces for easy navigation and safety. For example, there’s often a secured area for storing a resident’s toiletries, according to Gurung. This security measure prevents residents with dementia from accidentally ingesting or misusing toxic products.

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. Some memory care communities even have memory boxes displayed outside of each resident’s suite, to help them find their way back to their personal space with ease while enabling them to reconnect with cherished memories.

Some communities have taken a new approach to the classic memory box and digitized it with a display of slideshow images that can be updated remotely by family members or friends who live far away.

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Memory care communities continually incorporate innovative features and technology to help residents find their way around. For clearer navigation, some community floor plans may include these thoughtful features:

  • Non-repetitive, color-coded hallways
  • Flowing, open-concept floor plans
  • Widened doorways
  • 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. Memory care communities have several features to help prevent your elderly loved one from falling. Here are a few fall prevention features to look out for:

  • Elevators
  • Emergency buttons
  • Handrails and nonslip flooring
  • Sit-to-stand lifts and other ambulatory medical equipment
  • 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 about their safety, it may be time to consider memory care. Our Senior Living Advisors can answer questions, arrange in-person or virtual tours, and provide information about a particular community’s features. With our resources and assistance, you can have peace of mind knowing your loved one is safe and receiving the highest level of personalized care.

Meet the Author
Merritt Whitley

Merritt Whitley is a creative copywriter at A Place for Mom. She has written for senior audiences for about six years and specializes in health, finance, and lifestyle content. Merritt has managed multiple print publications, social media channels, and blogs. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Illinois University, where she focused on journalism, advertising, and public relations.

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