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The Invisible Shackles of a Locked, Memory Care Floor

February 20th, 2017


Once when I was driving on the highway I noticed a woman, who looked to be about 85 years old, walking on the side of the highway. I looked for a car that she possibly abandoned but didn’t see one. My first thought was that she had Alzheimer’s disease and was lost and wandering. I immediately called 911 to make sure she was okay. You’ve heard about these situations in which a person with memory loss is relocated, or to use a word I hate “placed” in a “secured” setting for their own safety. Most of the time the family tells me about how difficult the decision was for them but they felt they had no choice. Their loved one was no longer safe at home and they didn’t have the time, resources or skill set to manage the symptoms of Dementia. Soon after their loved one’s “admittance” I hear about the senior who is “acting out” or “angry” or “isolating” or “resistant” to being in this new environment. Sounds like a pretty normal and expected reaction. I know I wouldn’t want someone to “place” me.

Are restricted or locked environments really necessary? Are they ethical? Are we not stripping someone of their human rights? Or, are we protecting them? This is a complex question and there is no easy answer when trying to balance someone’s basic human rights, freedom and safety. This week’s guest on Caregivers’ Circle , Dr. Allen Power, MD, discusses the multitude of factors that has led to the development and growth of secured living environments. He and I discuss many considerations such as the ethics, benefits and risks to living in a secured setting. Dr. Power is a board certified internist and geriatrician, clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Rochester, and an international educator on transformational models of care for older adults, and the author of Dementia Beyond Disease: Enhancing Well-Being and Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of Care. Listen here.

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