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Unlocked MC Unit
Posted: Monday, July 15, 2019 12:53 PM
Joined: 7/15/2019
Posts: 7

I'm in my 70's and my 91 year old mother has AD. She lived independently until two years ago when she moved into an AL facility. This past April she developed full-blown AD and wandered out of her AL home with keys in her hand. I was told she needed to move to their locked MC facility. I managed this move from my nearby state which was about a 2 hour drive but quickly learned I needed to be way more involved, especially when she fell and broke her hip. Three weeks ago I moved her to what seemed a lovely MC 10 minutes from my home. Several days after the move, I was informed by staff my mother had walked out of the facility twice in the past day. I said that was impossible since she did not have the code or fob or however staff opened the locked door. That was the FIRST time I heard the facility is not locked but only alarmed. Staff go in and out of the alarmed door all day for breaks or to come and go from work. Since the door is next to my mother's room, she noticed this and wanted to go out as well, which she did. I was told if this behavior continues she would have to leave. When I've told this story to people I meet or know, I have heard many stories of residents of Wisconsin MC wandering out alarmed doors and then being forced to leave the facility creating chaos in the family as they scramble for another place for their loved one.

Has anyone in another state experienced these unlocked MC facilities? I want to complain where I can make a difference but I've been told by the facility director her hands are tied since it is a fire code. Where should I go next with this?

Thanks all

Rescue mom
Posted: Monday, July 15, 2019 1:06 PM
Joined: 10/12/2018
Posts: 1494

That’s interesting, and alarming. I’m in Florida; all the MC facilities IME are secured, with locks and walls/fences etc., precisely to prevent wandering.

I do have family who were in ALFs that were easier to “escape” from, and yes, fire codes requiring some unlocked doors were an issue. That’s a big reason many moved to secure MC units, which had different rules and regs.  ALFs often had fobs etc. so aware residents could get out. But those were not full-fledged, secures MC facilities.

Have you contacted other facilities and asked specifically about locked and wandering prevention? That would be my next step. I would think that would be essential for MC (along with some sort of exemption from usual fire codes)?? That seems like a big part of the reason for MC. 

But if it’s some kind  of ALF/MC combo or hybrid, then yes, I can see how someone could get out because the codes allow less controlled access. 

We just had to make sure we had a secure MCF with tighter access control—not a facility they could escape from—and the facilities and staff understood that blocking wandering was a big deal.

But different states can have different rules about a lot of things....

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2019 2:37 PM
Joined: 7/15/2019
Posts: 7

I already checked about moving her room. This facility charges $1000 to move to another room and then I need to hire movers to move her furniture since the facility offers no help. I think I'm going to check out the fire code and see if there can be an exemption for MC before I spend another $1000 for a different room. Thanks
Posted: Monday, July 15, 2019 4:51 PM
Joined: 5/16/2017
Posts: 581

I would contact the wisconsin dept of health services.  I am not aware of regulations that do not allow locked memory care units.

Here is some info that may help you

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2019 8:11 PM
Joined: 7/15/2019
Posts: 7

Thanks for this. Since it is dated 2014, I would hope something has been done toward the stated goals but I haven't found anything encouraging yet. I contacted my county Ombudsman and explained the situation. She said it is true that in Wisconsin fire codes do not permit outside exits to be locked. This is stupid and I plan to get more info on this. I will follow the suggestion of another poster and check police records if I can to see how many walk aways are apprehended by PDs. The Ombudsman wants to meet with me and says the facility needs to put STOP signs on the two unlocked exit doors and train staff to keep their eyes on residents that move toward the doors. I'm there nearly every day and see staff talking to each other and looking at their phones rather than interacting with residents. I'm starting to regret moving my mother but I needed to be nearer to her to oversee her care. And it seems to be a full time job!
Posted: Monday, July 15, 2019 8:21 PM
Joined: 7/17/2017
Posts: 403

I agree with Victoria!!  Tell them you're going to contact the board of nursing homes and file a complaint, then do it.  In Colorado, I believe it is called the Department of Health and Human Services, and they have a website. 
 Can you talk to other family members who have loved ones there? If it really is supposed to be memory care, are they conveniently "letting" people escape that they find difficult, so they can discharge them?  I can't think of any other reason that an employee would let a patient escape. She could have walked straight out into the highway in the middle of the night!!  Are they going to have to get sued before the employees are held accountable?  If it's a fairly small facility (which most memory care units are), then I would visit at night when the careless people work and watch how they enter and exit (are they locking the door every time they enter and exit??).  

King Boo
Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2019 6:57 AM
Joined: 1/9/2012
Posts: 3250

At our time of need, a facility is either a good one or not.  If it does not meet our LO's needs, find another one. If policies and procedures need a major overhaul, change is not going to happen in time to benefit you.     As in, changing State Wisconsin law and the internal policies of the facility is going to take time - a whole lot of time- more than Mom probably has on earth.
You did good by moving her near you.  All facilities are not created equal, there may be a better one in the area.

Our MC faciity was considered an unlocked one.  It was officially an AL for higher needs,virtually everyone had dementia.   Those residents that had an occasional tendancy to leave the unit has a Wander Guard that would set off the alarm.  It was a hike to the main entrance from there, so people were easily intercepted when this occasionally happened.  Extreme exit seekers were not admitted.  

Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2019 10:04 AM
Joined: 10/9/2014
Posts: 1092

I might consult with an attorney in her jurisdiction and/or the county department of human resources who regulates the Memory Care units. They regularly inspect the facilities to ensure that they comply with state laws.  That way, you can know what is allowed and what isn't.  

I'm no expert, but, according to what I discovered about my state's laws, even a MC unit, must have an exit that is not locked.  There is an alarm that alerts the staff, if a resident exits, but, it's still an open exit that leads out into a secure outdoor garden.   My LO is in a secure MC facility and there is a code on one exit, however, there is a door that says EXIT that is not locked.  It just so happens that the residents do not think of using it.  But, if they did, they would be attended to with staff member to accompany them into the garden or help bring them back inside, if it was too hot or cold outside. 

Rescue mom
Posted: Wednesday, July 17, 2019 10:27 AM
Joined: 10/12/2018
Posts: 1494

Something piqued my curiosity...Bandit mentioned discussing this with a “county ombudsman.” Is that an ombudsman for care facilities, for elder affairs, for everything/anything in the county? Somebody who works for the county? Or a state worker overseeing the county? A care specialist? I don’t think my county has one—or if they do, it’s a very general position to deal with general complaints, more like a PR person with a then-trendy title.

I’m just not familiar with the position or what it does/covers.