Military morse code experience helps elderly couple bust out of Tennessee assisted living facility

The couple managed to escape the facility for a half hour before being discovered on a nearby road

Graig Graziosi
Monday 03 May 2021 19:38
A man works a telegraph key at a desk.
A man works a telegraph key at a desk.

An elderly couple suffering from Alzheimer's disease managed to briefly escape their "secure memory unit" at an assisted living facility in Tennessee by using an antiquated - but still effective - form of communication.

The elderly man, who claims to have served in the military, used his background with Morse code to memorize the beeps made by the door's electronic lock when pressed.

After memorizing the sounds, he was able to sneak away with his wife, The Tennessean reports.

The escapees are not named in the state report documenting the event.

The pair managed to escape the facility for 30 minutes on 2 March before a passerby noticed them walking down a road two blocks from the facility.

The passerby picked the escapees up and returned them to the Elmcroft of Lebanon facility.

After being returned to the facility, the staff questioned the man on how he managed to escape.

He said he "previously worked with Morse code in the military," and used that experience to memorize the keypad numbers.

The half-hour breakout earned the Elmcroft of Lebanon a $2,000 fine from the state.

The assisted living facility assured state regulators that it could prevent future escape episodes from occurring. Officials from the facility said they planned to check on their residents more frequently and to give the man who escaped "walking time outside the facility with a staff member present."

The daughter of the man who broke out also agreed to take him on more trips outside of the facility.

The facility has changed all of its exit codes in the wake of the incident and released a statement addressing the escape.

"The safety of our residents is the top priority at our senior living community. 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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