While people with dementia must be safe from possibly dangerous situations, limiting their mobility is counter-productive and does not respect their right to freedom of movement.

Principles

  • Respect people’s rights to dignity and freedom of movement.
  • Balance safety with independence.
  • Remember that some people do not want to leave, they want to be sure they are not locked in.
  • Using creativity for apparent exits can produce positive outcomes.
  • Allowing access to secure outdoor areas significantly decreases agitation.
  • Changes to the physical environment can support freedom of movement without risking safety or security.

Strategies

  • Gently redirect a person towards other places or activities.
  • As much as possible, keep people with dementia from seeing others leave.
  • Ask staff and visitors to be unobtrusive when leaving.
  • Do not discuss going home when residents are present.
  • Minimise personal restriction and improve stimulation generally.
  • Use décor and fittings to lessen interest in doors and other exit points.
  • Disguise or conceal fences and exit gates.
  • Provide a gate in the outdoor area for people to latch and unlatch.
  • Install a security system (Perez et al., 2001).

Disguising exit points

Observe fire regulations and do not obstruct the use of any door. Try these simple and creative ways of making doors look less like doors.

  • Paint a mural across the door.
  • Continue window treatments across the door from adjacent windows.
  • Paint the door the same colour as the wall.
  • Continue any wall décor across the door.
  • Continue handrails across doors.
  • Install matching mini-blinds that restrict light and views through exit door windows.
  • Dim lights around exit doors.
  • Remove unnecessary signs from doors.
  • Place a dark floor mat in front of the door.
  • Attach a full length mirror to the door.