Security measures in senior living facilities: Are owners doing enough?

workman changing lock on door

Residents of senior living facilities look to owners to provide security measures. Are owners doing enough to protect residents from abuse and theft?

Read about one family's experience of theft in a senior community and how it could have been prevented.

My friend’s mother was robbed a few months ago. She lives in a reputable Independent Retirement community in an upscale neighborhood. Yet her apartment was ransacked while she ate lunch in the dining room.

They discovered the theft a day after it happened when my friend’s mom went to pay for her medications. Her wallet was empty. All her credit cards plus $400 cash were missing.

They called the police and filed reports. An investigation ensued. Come to find out, a few other residents were also missing cash, credit cards, and jewelry.

During the investigation my friend discovered the community had no hallway cameras installed.

Her confidence in the community’s security measures was shaken. And it didn’t improve when another bout of robberies happened a few weeks later.

After several weeks, outdoor surveillance caught a woman on camera who turned out to be the thief. She was dressed in scrubs and wore an official looking badge. The woman walked into the building as if she was as a private duty caregiver.

This thief obviously knew what she was doing. She arrived at mealtime, when most of the residents were at lunch. As she walked down the halls, she checked each door to see if it was locked. If it wasn’t, she just walked in and helped herself to whatever she could find.

About security in senior facilities

Crime in our neighborhoods is on the rise. Some senior housing owners are getting serious about providing security. But it varies by facility, depending on many factors. And not every building uses available technology.

If you’re assessing the security of a senior facility, I’ve outlined some things to look for. And if you or a loved one already live in a senior community, I’ve listed some tips for staying safer.

What security measures should you look for in a senior home?

When shopping for a senior living community we often focus on amenities, accommodations, costs, and care. As important as these things are, don’t forget to ask about security.

Security may vary by care level. This article is about senior communities whose residents don’t have dementia issues.

From one spectrum to the other

Some communities follow a strict check-in process for all visitors. Guests must stop at the front desk, show ID, and get a visitor’s badge. Even family, friends, and health care workers.

Exclusive and upscale communities are often gated. Front doors might include electronically monitored entries. Visitors must identify themselves before getting buzzed in.

On the other end of the spectrum are communities with a relaxed attitude. They might have a simple guest book. Often, it’s not monitored nor is sign-in enforced. 

A security checklist when shopping for retirement or assisted living

Video Surveillance

Check that the parking lot, entrances, hallways, medication rooms, and public spaces are monitored by cameras?

Front Desk Reception

Ask about the scheduled hours when someone is at the front desk.
What other duties does that person have?
How attentively can they watch people coming and going?
Is the front desk positioned so staff can greet people coming and going?
Are they trained to insist on check-in?

Perimeter Access

Is the property fenced?
Is there limited access to side and back entries?
How are doors accessed: keys, key fobs, keypad, key cards, electronic badges that residents and staff wear?

Apartment Locks

Are the door locks changed after every resident moves out?

Security Lighting

Are all the outdoor areas and entries well-lit at night?

Staff Training

Are staff trained to speak up?
If they see a visitor, do they say something like, “Hi, I’m Nancy, a housekeeper. May I ask who you’re here to visit?”

Things you can do to stay safe and secure in your senior community

Lock Your Apartment Door

Some seniors think it’s a hassle to carry their key around. Or they have a high sense of trust. That’s good. We want them to feel safe. But a little caution goes a long way.

Valuables

If the community hasn’t installed safes in the apartments, buy one.
Make sure it’s big and heavy enough that it’s not easily picked up or carried out. Keep valuables, credit cards, and cash in the safe. 

Nanny Cams

If there’ve been incidents of staff stealing from residents, you might consider a nanny cam.

Renters Insurance

If you have laptops, iPads, jewelry, or other valuables, consider renters insurance. Some communities require it.

Be Cautious

Especially if your community is lax in security measures.
Ask who’s at the door before you open.
Don’t open the door if the person is unfamiliar or unexpected.
If they say they’re maintenance or housekeeping and you don’t know them, call the front desk.
If you’re not expecting a repair or service, call the front desk to double check.

Comply with the Rules

When visiting your loved one, please sign in and out. It’s easy to overlook or not take the time when you’re a familiar or frequent visitor.
Signing in lets staff know who’s in the building in event of a fire or some other emergency.

In Summary

The good news is that the credit card company reversed all charges for my friend’s mom. The $400 was never recovered but the thief was caught and prosecuted. Thankfully, this was an incident of theft - not something more violent.

Residents depend on senior housing management to provide security measures in their community. To keep them safe from abuse and theft. Owners need to get security savvy, invest in technology, and train their staff. Residents and their families can also do their part in keeping the community safe for everyone.

Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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I was experiencing anxiety for my mom and what her future plans would be. I knew that the time was coming. Without Jennifer, I don't know how it would have worked.


This is a job that can not be done in a moment's time nor done by yourself.


With Jennifer's help, we were able to transition my mom to a wonderful home and it is there that she feels safe and welcomed.


Thank you, Jennifer, for helping to coordinate this life changing time for us all!


Karen O'Malley

Daughter

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