Crimes against elders raise concern for older people moving to assisted-living communities, and family members who are helping with that transition. Here’s some advice about how to choose a secure community for long-term care.
• Security varies: Suzanna Sulfstede, director of the long-term care ombudsman program at the Senior Source in Dallas, said security varies by facility. Some communities may have a check-in process for guests that involves getting a visitors’ badge, while others may just have guests sign in on a clipboard.
Security may also vary by level of care. For example, independent living complexes may have individual locks on residents’ units — although nurses or other staff may have keys for emergencies. Nursing home doors, however, are required to be lock-free to allow for more regular medical care.
“Ultimately, the facility is responsible for the safety of its residents,” Sulfstede said.
• Install a camera: Residents are allowed to have a camera in their personal space, Sulfstede said, and they have the right to record interactions with staff and other caregivers.
“Cameras in facilities can deter abuse,” she said.
However, Sulfstede said it’s important to be sure that the resident knows when and how cameras are used in order to give them privacy if needed. And in some nursing home settings, she said, it’s important to talk to potential roommates about camera usage.
Also, she suggested checking whether security cameras are installed in public spaces like hallways and foyers, and how they are monitored.
• Visit at night: Mark Dawson of the Plano, Texas, Police Department’s crime prevention unit suggested visiting a facility at night to assess lighting, and Sulfstede said it’s important to ask what security measures are in place at all hours.
Dawson also suggested using public data to see what kind of crimes and calls for service have been reported in the neighborhood.
After certain hours, some facilities may lock up and require a key pad code or phone call for entry. Sulfstede noted that some facilities have shorter staffing at night and at times may not have someone at the front desk to check in visitors. It’s important, therefore, for families to know what kind of security is offered at different times of day and night.
• Do your research: Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are subject to regular state inspections. To see reports on a facility, visit floridahealthfinder.gov.
• Ask questions: When touring a facility, it’s important for both the person moving in and his or her family to ask lots of questions about security.
Experts also suggest talking to current residents or their families to get another perspective of what a community is like.
Ask what emergency plans are in place. Any employee should know the basics of a facility’s preparedness plan.
• Verify visitors: Dawson said it’s important for facility residents not to automatically open the door if there’s an unexpected knock.
If someone claims to work for the facility, call the front desk to double-check.
“You have to have a mindset like you can’t trust people like you used to,” Dawson said.
— Charles Scudder, The Dallas Morning News