Due to the enhanced care that residents suffering from dementia and other similar memory impairments face, the Georgia Department of Community Health has issued specific guidelines with how those residents must be cared for:
111-8-63-.18 Requirements for Memory Care Services
(1) An assisted living community that serves residents with cognitive deficits that place the residents at risk of eloping, i.e. engaging in unsafe wandering activities outside the assisted living community must do the following:
(a) Develop, train, and enforce policies and procedures for staff to deal with residents who may wander away from the assisted living community including what actions, are to be taken if a resident wanders away (elopes) from the assisted living community.
(b) Utilize appropriate effective safety devices, which do not impede the residents’ rights to mobility and activity choice or violate fire safety standards, to protect the residents who are at risk of eloping from the premises.
- If the safety devices include magnetic locks used on exit doors, as approved by the fire marshal having jurisdiction over the assisted living community, then the locking device shall be electronic and release whenever the following occurs: activation of the fire alarm or sprinkler system, power failure to the assisted living community or by-pass for routine use by the public and staff for service using a key button/keypad located at the exit or continuous pressure for thirty (30) seconds or less.
- If the safety devices include the use of keypads to lock and unlock exits, then directions for their operations shall be posted on the outside of the door to allow individuals access to the unit. However, if the unit is a whole assisted living community, then directions for the operation of the locks need not be posted on the outside of the door. The units must not have entrance and exit doors that are closed with non-electronic keyed locks nor shall a door with a keyed lock be placed between a resident and the exit.
(2) An assisted living community serving residents who are at risk of eloping from the premises must remain on file at the assisted living community with current pictures of any such residents.
A big takeaway here is realizing a memory care unit is not for residents that are solely exhibiting behaviors- the resident must be an elopement risk. Because these residents require enhanced care it is necessary to provide specialty training to the staff that is assigned to those residents. It is also of the utmost importance to develop and perform frequent elopement drills for your staff, so they are prepared in case a resident goes missing.