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Unlocked MC Unit
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?
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....
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
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.
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.
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.