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Safety in Dementia: Door Alarms

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Updated June 30, 2013

If your loved one or patient with Alzheimer's disease or a different type of dementia attempts to leave your home or facility, one option to increase their safety is to place alarms on the doors. You can also try different locking mechanisms such as a latch up high, but the concern with that strategy is that in case of a fire, the person may not be able to escape safely out of the house.

An alarm can allow the person to attempt exiting through the door but will also alert you to her need for assistance. Alarms may provide a little more support in your efforts to ensure your loved one's safety so that rather than feel that you have to constantly check on her, you know that the alarm will sound if she suddenly wakes and needs assistance.

Uses for Door Alarms

  • Protect Individuals from Elopement and Wandering

    Whether intentionally attempting to "run away" or simply wandering around and locating a door, those at risk for exiting without the needed supervision may benefit from a door alarm on the exterior doors.

  • Alerts Others for Assistance

    Door alarms can also be used on the bathroom door. They can be placed in such a way that they'll sound when the door is opened, letting you know that your loved one or patient requires assistance in the bathroom.

Types of Door Alarms

  • String Alarm

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    A string alarm can be placed high up on the door frame with the string placed across the door opening. If the door opens, it will cause the string, which is held in place by a magnet, to detach from the alarm, causing it to sound. The alarm will stop sounding once the magnet is reattached.

  • Passive InfraRed (PIR) Alarms

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    A PIR alarm can be utilized across a door opening so that if the plane across the door is broken, the alarm will sound and alert you to your loved one's need for assistance.

  • Magnetic Door Alarms

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    Magnetic door alarms have two parts that are connected magnetically. One part is attached to the door frame right at the edge next to the door and the other part is attached to the door right next to the frame. The alarm sounds when the two parts are no longer connected by the magnet.

  • Floor Sensor Alarms

    Floor sensor alarms have a sensor pad on the floor and a magnetic lock on the door. They can be preset to different settings, some of which will alarm immediately and other settings that allow a person to exit out the door and return just a short time later before sounding.

Another option if you have doors in your house that you don't want your loved one to open, you can simply lock them or have a keypad lock installed on those doors. The keypad locks will unlock once you enter the correct number code in the keypad.

Resources on Wandering

Tips to Prevent Wandering in Dementia

How to Respond to Wandering Attempts in Dementia

What to Do if Your Loved One with Dementia Is Missing

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