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Integrated Security-Response Systems

October 1, 2004
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How electronic "guardian angels" watch over this facility's residents with dementia by Steven Elder
BY STEVEN ELDER

An integrated security-response system combines safety systems into a single entity. It is essentially a network of networks, uniting a facility's security needs for wander prevention and emergency response. Typically, each system functions independently, with central reporting handled by a single user interface. This way, rather than having alarms reported through several different systems, all information is centralized in one location.

Brighton Gardens of Towson, a Sunrise Senior Living facility in Towson, Maryland, has implemented an integrated security-response system of this type. The facility cares for 70 residents, including 20 residents with dementia. Most of these 20 residents live in a secure advanced-care unit. Typically, though, two or three residents do not yet require this level of care but are nonetheless prone to erratic behavior such as wandering.

A wander-prevention system and emergency-call-response system were part of the design specification when Brighton Gardens was built in 2000. Sunrise was keen to have these systems be state of the art and as simple to use as possible. The answer was an integrated, custom, PC-based control interface displaying information gathered not only from its emergency-response network, but also from a wander-prevention system.

Each resident wears an emergency call pendant or bracelet that enables him or her to summon help from anywhere in the facility. Wander-prone residents are also equipped with a small bracelet monitor. Whenever one of these residents leaves through a monitored door, an alarm is automatically generated. Alarms are reported through a PC located at the facility's Wellness Center. The software shows the location and time of each alarm and, more importantly, identifies the resident by name and bracelet or pendant ID number. The system does not require that someone sit at the PC at all times. Each staff member at Brighton Gardens is equipped with a pager that is automatically activated whenever an alarm occurs. The pager message also includes the name and ID number of the resident, along with the time and location of the alarm.

Kim Rice, general manager at Brighton Gardens, calls this a critical feature. "In any assisted living building, when trying to monitor 20 residents and manage their care needs, you need all the information in its simplest form." Because all staff members are informed of an incident and know exactly who has wandered before they arrive, everyone can help monitor residents and respond to any incident. To further improve response efficiency, Brighton Gardens is now looking into a system of portable two-way radios for staff, so that they can coordinate response to an alarm.

All alarm and event data are stored on the PC "controller" for the integrated system, and a range of reports can be generated with this information. It is possible, for example, to track how long it took for staff to respond to a call or how often a resident has been involved in a wander incident. Armed with this information, the facility is better able not only to improve care on a general level, but to assess the individual needs of each resident: Has Mrs. Weller had three falls in the past month? If so, perhaps a review of her footwear is in order, or maybe she needs more grab bars in her room. It looks as though Mr. Franklin has been involved in two wander incidents. Perhaps it is time to sit with his family and apprise them of this change in his condition. With the objective evidence of the system's reports, family can more easily see when their loved one's condition has changed, requiring a change in the level of care.

Improving efficiency seems to be the wrong kind of expression to sum up the benefits that Brighton Gardens has received from its integrated security-response system. What it has really meant is that staff have more time to spend doing what matters most-caring for residents-and to do it better because they know more about them.



Steven Elder is a Communications Specialist at Xmark, a division of Instantel, Inc. Xmark's corporate offices are in Ottawa, Canada. Products discussed are from Elcombe Systems (now March Networks Healthcare Applications) and Xmark, provider of the WatchMate system. For more information, visit www.xmarksystems.com. To comment on this article, send e-mail to elder1004@nursinghomesmagazine.com. For reprints in quantities of 100 or more, call (866) 377-6454.
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