LEBANON, Tenn. – Once an elderly Tennessee couple connected the dots, they were able to dash.
A husband and wife briefly escaped from a secure memory unit at an assisted living facility in Lebanon on March 2, using their military training with Morse code to decipher and memorize the code to an electronic door lock, according to Tennessee Department of Health documents.
The couple, who were not identified in the state records, has dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, respectively, The Tennessean reported. They briefly were missing from Elmcroft of Lebanon for about 30 minutes, the newspaper reported. They were found walking down a road by a person not affiliated with the facility, according to the state records.
What puzzled officials was how the couple was able to escape from the memory unit, which has a locked door secured by an electronic keypad, The Tennessean reported.
The man said he “previously worked with Morse code in the military,” according to documents. He said he was able to use his experience to learn the door code by listening as staff punched numbers into the keypad.
The Tennessee Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities said staff members were supposed to increase check-ins with the husband in February because he had shown wandering and exit-seeking behaviors, WBIR reported. Staff scheduled times to walk with him outdoors, and the board said his daughter was visiting and taking him outside the facility more.
On April 7, the board fined the facility $2,000, WBIR reported. The board said Elmcroft officials failed to provide daily awareness for the whereabouts of the couple and failed to provide them safety, the television station reported.
Elmcroft of Lebanon has since changed its exit codes, the company said in a statement.
“The safety of our residents is the top priority at our senior living community,” the statement read. “We are thankful both residents were returned to the community safely,” the statement said. “We reported the situation to the state and their family immediately after it happened and fully cooperated with the state during its review.”
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