How to do it... Resident security

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1 Your resident population may look vastly different five years from now so choose systems that will reflect that, advises Jon Ross, general manager of 3M Security Systems Division.

“Don't pigeonhole yourself into a situation that won't give you the flexibility to grow and expand,” Ross says. “We've had many customers who say they don't currently have an elopement problem, but they may in the future and should plan for it.”

Providers have to ensure that their security system will integrate with existing phones and pagers. Conduct a walk-through of the community to see that all doors and areas are covered to avoid potentially costly system add-ons later, adds Paul Larson, vice president of product development at RF Technologies.

2 Keep it simple. “Be cautious of over-integration, which may create complications and alarm fatigue from frequent alarms from many systems,” Larson adds.

Sam Youngwirth, the owner of Ciscor, advises providers not to make things too complicated.

“We see systems that are over engineered with great features that staff simply can't use,” he says.

Adds Jim Kelley, vice president, sales and marketing, Digital Care Systems Inc.: “Don't get caught up in technology that is irrelevant to your security needs. Start with a list of must-have features and make your decision based on that.”

3 Vendors themselves freely admit that the most expensive solution isn't always the most appropriate or effective.

“Some facilities think they should put a mag lock, a two-key pad and a wandering system on top of it on every single door,” says Ross. “It's silly to put thousands of dollars of equipment on a door that's never used. You need to look at your layout, the uses of each door and your resident population.”

4 Consider systems that monitor residents' movements and staff reaction time. Such systems will provide invaluable data about residents' routines, and allow you to tailor your alarms to match them.

“Consider what feedback your security system can give you that can help you plan better for the care of your residents,” Ross says. “The biggest common mistake people make is assuming because their doors are locked, their facility is secure. Locked doors and secure doors are two different things.”

Steve Warren, CEO of Skil-Care Corp., is a strong believer in alarms, both silent and audible.

“Alarms can alert staff when a non-ambulatory resident leaves a bed or commode, and provide a level of vigilance,” he says.

Monitoring systems also keep staff on their toes by tracking alarm response, Youngwirth notes.

Plus, just as security measures keep residents from wandering or falling, they also can track resident health status.

“Nutrition and hydration are the basic keys to seniors' life safety followed by activity and then engagement to prevent a sense of isolation,” says Mike MacLeod, president of Status Solutions.

5 Spend time to properly train staff on the system.

“Security systems can be a significant capital expenditure, and if staff do not understand how to operate the system, then it can become an enormous waste of resources,” Youngwirth says.

“We believe that the best way to ensure resident safety is through thorough and continuous training of all staff in a community or facility,” adds Mike Mutka, president and COO of Silverchair Learning Systems. “As a provider, you never know which employee will be the one who helps prevent an emergency, elopement or injury.”

“Few busy nurses have time to read user manuals, so vendor-provided staff training is critical,” Warren notes.

6 Make an effort to communicate the reason for security measures with residents.

“It is not advisable to downplay the presence of safety and security measures. They should be visible. Just like a seatbelt provides comfort and peace of mind, so do safety and security systems,” Status Solutions' MacLeod says.