Jack Sheehan

When touring an assisted living facility, prospective residents typically are thinking: “Will I be comfortable here?” and “Can I still maintain some independence?”

Their adult children have questions, too: “Is my parent safe here?” and “What happens if there is an emergency?”

Community owners always must balance helping residents maintain a sense of dignity with ensuring their personal safety. By installing an advanced emergency call system with in-room audio, they can accomplish both goals. Real-time voice communication between nurses and other caregivers and residents provides invaluable peace of mind for residents and their loved ones.

Here’s how it works:

A resident pushes the emergency call button for help. Now what?

The resident’s request could be routine or could be an emergency. With in-room audio, a staff member can speak directly to the resident in real time and determine the needs behind the call. If the resident has a routine request, such as asking for a glass of water, then the worker can inform the resident that he or she will be there in a few minutes. If there is a more urgent issue, such as a resident experiencing shortness of breath, then the staff member immediately can offer comfort and assure the resident that help is on the way and that help will get there quickly.

And for community operators that may want to require that their staff members physically visit a resident’s room or apartment to cancel an urgent or routine call, advanced emergency call systems can bake this into the workflow designed for the facility.

With voice messaging, staff members can save time, prioritize requests, deliver urgent care more quickly and provide comfort to residents who know their needs will be met — even if they cannot respond immediately.

When a minute seems like an hour

By the very nature of their situations, residents often are worried and anxious. They also can feel vulnerable, with little control over what is happening. On an emotional level, the immediate availability of direct voice access to assigned caregivers can alleviate some of this distress, providing a means of building trust and a sense of safety for both the resident and his or her loved ones.

On a physical level, direct voice communication helps ensure more immediate intervention and saves precious seconds when they matter most. With technology such as Ascom’s teleCARE emergency call system, the average response time is 30 to 60 seconds.

Happier caregivers, better care

Adding staff phones with in-room audio also can be a big step to implementing resident-centered care. The voice functionality available today via mobile handsets means that communication can be maintained without a caregiver having to visit a room or the resident leaving his or her bed.

Integration with on-site, mission-critical mobile devices increases efficiency, unfettering caregivers from a central station while allowing for the instant communication that enables informed prioritization and drives optimal decision-making, whether it’s an immediate response or a reassuring word. Additional benefits include more peaceful communities, enhanced resident privacy and maximized quality caregiver time with residents.

Guarding against undetected elopement

Although direct voice communication is highly effective in improving resident safety, additional technology is required in memory care. One of the largest threats to memory care residents is elopement. In fact, approximately six in 10 dementia victims will wander at least once, and if a resident is not found within 24 hours, up to half of wandering seniors with dementia suffer serious injury or death.

The latest Silver Alert features automatically alert caregivers when a resident has moved beyond a door rather than simply approached a door, which could lead to “alarm fatigue” among staff members.

Appropriately escalating issues is crucial in today’s assisted living facilities. With the right technology, you can save valuable staff time and prevent major incidents.

Differentiating your community

In today’s competitive landscape, deploying the latest communication and protection technology is no longer optional. Older adults have more choices than ever before when it comes to assisted living communities — and more buying power.

According to a market research report from SBDCNet, baby boomers, for instance, represent more than 70% of U.S. financial assets and more than half of all discretionary spending. The old adage “know your customer” is particularly important with this fiercely independent generation and the adult children who now are helping the oldest among them make decisions.

Demonstrating in-room audio and Silver Alert technology during community tours can be a powerful marketing tool because it can give retirees and their families an immediate sense of comfort that someone is available to help. Additionally, reducing call wait times for residents can leads to higher resident satisfaction scores. These high scores resonate with prospective residents and family members alike. Finally, positive resident satisfaction scores strike a chord with referral sources such as hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes.

Case study: The Haven at Windermere

Like many assisted living facilities, The Haven at Windermere in Baton Rouge, LA, used outdated technology for day-to-day operations.

“The staff had pagers, and when a resident pushed their button or wandered, the pager was supposed to activate. “Unfortunately, that didn’t always happen,” said Denise Ortego, the community’s executive director. “If the resident had an emergency due to a fall, or needed us for any reason, sometimes the pagers didn’t work and the staff would have no idea.”

That’s why the staff at the assisted living community decided that the time clearly had come to make a change, and fast. “We needed a new emergency call system immediately,” Ortego said.

The Haven at Windermere saw immediate benefits after installing Ascom’s teleCARE IP emergency call system: In addition to improving resident safety and satisfaction, the Haven was able to set its community apart from competitors.


In-room audio technology allows residents to maintain a sense of autonomy and privacy while still feeling safe during the transition to assisted living. By investing in the technology now, community owners can ease the transition and create a safe haven that’s ideally suited to residents.

Jack Sheehan is director of business development, senior care, for Ascom North America.

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