Residents tend to be happier when they feel more in control of their options, experts note.
Current and prospective residents appreciate aesthetically pleasing properties and robust amenities. But there's something they and their loved ones value even more: a safe and secure place to call home.
It's a point that has more assisted living operators taking notice and consciously striving to boost their security offerings, and also their competitive advantage. This is especially important as today's assisted living communities serve residents with widely varying care needs and acuity levels.
Independent living, assisted living and memory care under one roof is now quite common, explains Steve Elder, senior marketing manager at STANLEY Healthcare. “Given this, resident safety technology is essential and I'm sure virtually all executive directors and directors of nursing would readily acknowledge [that].” He adds that communities also see resident security technology as an integral part of their identity in the marketplace. “It's a visible sign of their commitment to keeping residents safe.”
Still, experts agree that the secret to success lies in flexible, customizable and easily integrated solutions that let operators stay resident-centric and proactive, while also keeping existing technologies in play.
Beyond that, “any effective solution must be simple to use and maintain, and extremely reliable,” says Will Kaigler, president and CEO of NewCare Solutions LLC.
An ever-growing array of resident security solutions meets each of those critical needs — and more. Whether it's emergency call systems, fall management technologies, wander and elopement solutions, sleep and behavior monitoring, facility security systems, and beyond, caregivers have access to more innovative, intuitive and integrative resident safety offerings than ever.
Easy does it
Operators will find new-and-improved features and capabilities on many of today's security solutions, not the least of which includes the ability to more readily communicate with residents and capture key resident data to promote more prompt, proactive response.
Two-way voice communication is just one example. As Jim Kelley, vice president of sales and marketing for Digital Care Systems, explains, such communication capabilities on E-call systems assure residents that their call was received and that help is on the way. “It also allows the responder to know what the issue is, so they can rally other resources, if necessary, [when] they are on the way to help the resident.”
Combining data from multiple technologies further enhances resident care. If a resident has dementia and is prone to wandering, for example, it's relatively simple to create an immediate alert system with a door monitor, which can then contact a designated caregiver each time the door opens. However, taking this a step further, there are other technologies that can help with more upstream care, notes Bryan Fuhr, co-founder and VP of sales and marketing for Healthsense.
Monitoring activities that are precursors for risk behaviors — such as elopement — provide the opportunity to deliver proactive care intervention and can help provide better staff efficiencies, Fuhr adds. “If a resident has a sleep monitor that measures time out of bed during key nighttime wandering hours, for example, caregivers can be notified earlier of elopement risk and can manage more proactively, versus reactively.”
Information-based technology also is gaining momentum in the marketplace, allowing senior living communities to more easily engage in passive, remote monitoring — without the need for a resident-worn device. Passive monitoring also requires no education on the senior's behalf, notes Fuhr.
Critical health information is at the heart of the Healthsense eNeighbor System. Analytics are used to evaluate sensor data to provide relevant, timely health and safety information to caregivers regarding residents' activities of daily living (ADL). The key, according to Fuhr, is providing “relevant analysis when it's needed, through real-time observation and the prioritization of care needs.”
Sleep monitoring is one area, in particular, that's proving effective in catching potential health issues earlier, rather than later. NewCare Solutions' SilentAlert Sleep Monitor System is designed for monitoring sleep patterns in residents living in memory care and assisted living. Kaigler says customers evaluating sleep behavior have successfully caught urinary tract infections, medication issues and more, and have prevented falls, transitions to higher levels of care and potential hospital admissions.
“Caregivers can see what's happening during the period of the day that has some of the highest rates of incidents and the lowest staffing levels,” he notes.
Solutions that provide “situational awareness” — that is, allow owner-operators to read, hear and see what's happening around their enterprise, so they can respond promptly and effectively — are becoming more commonplace and increasingly vital as operators strive to best manage their available resources to improve resident care and response.
“From the mundane blown fuse to a life-and-death scenario, situation awareness helps prevent operational disruptions and speed emergency response,” says Status Solutions President Mike McLeod. “Real-time and historical reports then let you analyze response times and protocols to identify problem areas.”
System integration enhances data-gathering capabilities of today's solutions even more. E-call systems, for example, now can be extended to cover wander and fall management, so facilities needn't invest in three separate systems, according to Elder. “This will also give facilities one system to manage and train staff on.”
Another example is the increasing ability to integrate a fire alarm panel into a resident security solution. As Elder explains, this allows staff to be notified of the alarm location via their pagers, phones, portable devices, and other communication sources. What's more, integrated alarm management and automated mass notification lets facilities unify disparate alarm and communication systems, ensuring that critical data is collected, processed, analyzed and delivered to the right people, so they can address an unfolding situation right away, adds McLeod.
“Inefficient, standalone alarms are converted into real-time, detailed alerts delivered to key individuals, select groups and response teams, or larger populations via the designated communication end-points — from smart phones to PA systems and virtually any device in-between,” he notes. Additionally, predefined modes and actions set alerting/mass notification in motion when a triggering event occurs, according to the facility's protocols and escalation paths.
“With computer-telephony integration, existing networks, devices and other software systems can work together, without silos,” he said.
On the move
Because reliability reigns supreme on any resident security technology, more systems have self-monitoring capabilities that can pinpoint failures, keep tabs on battery life, and more. Wireless monitoring capabilities are another way to improve technologies' reach and usability, and allow for simpler expansion. Fuhr says the use of wireless technologies is rapidly becoming a differentiator among provider organizations.
Digital Care Systems recently stepped into the Wi-Fi segment with its LISA Wi-Fi System, which allows emergency calls to be sent directly over the community's Wi-Fi system. “Many assisted living operators have or are in the process of installing Wi-Fi throughout their communities, and are looking for more ways to utilize these networks,” Kelley confirms.
Status Solutions, too, has recently introduced a mobile dashboard. Its SARA eMessenger Mobile is voice-, Wi-Fi- and cellular-enabled, which turns mobile devices into command and control centers, according to McLeod. The mobile dashboard also works on smart devices, such as iPhones and iPads, for greater staff mobility. Video paging is another feature that enhances staff mobilization and response time. With the help of integrated security cameras, live video can be pushed to desktops and mobile devices when a triggering event occurs, says McLeod. Aside from streaming live video, “pre-recorded videos, photos and maps may also be included in video-enhanced alerts or video pages,” he points out.
Solutions that allow staff members to capture resident data at the point of care are also proving invaluable, for both the facility and the residents. As Rebecca Single, director of healthcare operations for Honeywell — Vocollect Solutions, explains, staff should be able to chart issues as they're occurring, thereby allowing the staff member to observe if there's a time of day or night when wandering is an issue and then determine whether there's a set pattern or if it occurs at all times.
More in store
In the not so distant future, operators will have even more advanced features at their fingertips. Elder predicts data and business intelligence will become even more critical, as will enhanced integration that will facilitate data exchange between a real-time locating system, like E-call or wander and an electronic medical record system.
Moving forward, operators will also find more technologies that integrate with electronic health record systems. It's an area that some vendors are already engaging, and customers are reporting benefits from the efficiencies and improved data capture.
“Having [Status Solutions']
SARA integrated with HealthMEDX makes it possible for us to improve our data collection, processing and analysis, which ultimately improves our level of resident service and care,” says Nadim Abi-Antoun, VP of information technology for Presbyterian Homes.
According to McLeod, situation awareness is not just about making customer data more valuable for the purpose of emergency alerting, but also for business improvements: “A medical record is data-rich, so we're committed to helping our healthcare customers extract more meaning from their databases to improve care and overall business operations.”