How to do it... Resident security

Share this content:

Long-term care providers need to know at least a little bit about a lot of things. When the human element is involved, that's when things start to get especially tricky. If those humans are wander- or fall-prone – not to mention elderly and frail, too – the need for good safety systems rises dramatically. That's why understanding resident safety systems becomes so critical. They must be operated correctly for best results. Included here are special tips to get the most out of your safety systems, including how to prevent accidents before they happen.

1) First, before you ever buy a wander monitor or other safety system, ask vendors to show their "cheat sheets" and "user guide designed for non-tech staff members," says Joe Whitt, spokesman for HomeFree Systems Inc. of Milwaukee.
"Review the vendor training program and support program for your system prior to purchase," Whitt adds. "Not only will this help with ease of use, but it also will make sure that the facility can utilize all of a system's capabilities."
Any "help" guide should be simply written and easy for staff to understand. With long-term care's frequent staff turnover, odds are somebody without much work experience is going to have a question about, or problem with, a resident safety system.
Knowing how to learn from a vendor company document in the middle of the night is better than having no options at all.

2) Not everybody can know everything. But you can ensure that at least somebody who seems to know most things is always working, experts say.
"Make sure at least one staff member per shift is sufficiently trained and can 'champion' the system," Whitt says. "This staff member should have access to all system guides and technical support contact information and be the 'go-to' person for the system on that shift."

3) But the idea is to make as many individuals as possible their own "go-to" person. Even though many companies boast continual or long helpline hours, it's always best if a staff member onsite can troubleshoot or fix a problem as it occurs.

4) Administer pass codes discreetly, yet liberally. "To ensure that residents don't memorize pass codes, it is important that each staff member be given his own unique code," stresses Diane Hosson, vice president of marketing for VeriChip Corp. "If your system does not support this capability, then the bypass codes should be changed every few months so that residents do not start to learn the codes through observation."
Long-term care veterans are full of stories about seemingly feeble or demented residents memorizing number codes or slipping deftly out of monitored doors.

5) Ensuring that door guards are tested and working properly should be one a provider's top concerns, experts say.
"A door-ajar alarm is an important feature of any wander prevention system," Hosson says. "It notifies a facility that a door has not properly closed after a certain period. Make sure this option is set for a reasonable period of time, such as 10 to 20 seconds. This will ensure that a door closes properly after use and it will also ensure that staff or residents don't accidentally leave a door propped for wanderers to leave through."

6) As with many aspects of your safety systems, test them with the help of co-workers. Don't just wait for something wrong to happen to react to it. This way, too, if something does appear improper, the worker can draw on personal experience from testing the product or seeing it in use.

7) One of the biggest trouble-shooting concerns is residents removing wander tags. The best strategy may be to have residents regard them as jewelry or family keepsakes by having a family member's photo securely fastened to them. After all, voluntary compliance is the highest goal in this realm.
Here's an idea: Some facilities have family members present a resident with the bracelet as a gift so the resident is more likely to wear it, according to Hosson.
Another option, she notes, is to have the resident wear the tracking device around an ankle so it isn't in plain view as much as an "out of sight out of mind" philosophy.

Mistakes to avoid
- Forgetting to keep at least one person who "knows all" on duty at all times.

- Not changing pass codes or PIN numbers frequently enough.

- Underestimating the resident's abilities to observe, learn and "hack" system knowledge from you without your knowing it.

- Not testing fall prevention, wander monitor and call systems regularly enough to learn any of their special needs or quirks.