Jenna Bigham, LSW
Social Services Director
Abbyshire Place Skilled Nursing & Rehab Center

Secured Units for those with Dementia

At Abbyshire Place, there are 24 beds within the Living Center. The Living Center is a secured unit for those with dementia and certain behaviors related to. The residents that reside within this secured unit typically are in good physical health but are those who are or have the potential to be exit seeking. Not all residents who have a dementia diagnosis or are exit seeking reside on this unit, however. Residents in wheelchairs are not typically placed in the Living Center due to the congestion that wheelchairs create causing higher fall risks for some of those with an already unsteady gait. Residents in wheelchairs that may pose a potential elopement risk would have a wander guard either placed around their wrist like a bracelet or onto their wheelchair. If or when a resident with a wander guard would get close enough to the door, the alarm would sound throughout the facility alerting staff. Those with wander guards must be accompanied by family/visitors or staff when exiting the facility.

The term elopement is used to describe an incident in which a person with dementia leaves a “safe area.” It becomes a major concern for a resident or anyone with dementia’s safety if one was to exit a safe area. The weather, surroundings and for how long one may remain outside of their safe zone can increase risk of the person in question become lost or injured. Assessments are conducted within nursing facilities to assess for elopement risk.

Risk factors that significantly increase the chances of elopement include: history of attempted elopement, wandering, statements regarding wanting to leave, restlessness, agitation, the ability to move about freely with or without wheelchair/walker and attempts to open doors. The assessments to ensure that residents are appropriate for the secured unit are conducted quarterly and significant changes in health can contribute to the assessments greatly. As always, engaging the residents in meaningful activities is beneficial as a preventative measure to minimizing exit seeking behaviors.