Tech for wander management keeps residents safe, yet provides a sense of freedom by ron rajecki
XXTT hat is the cost of wandering? It depends how you measure it. In \ jL a terms of risk of harm to the resident and the subsequent concerns of ? ? the family, a human cost exists. Your facility also faces a potential cost to its reputation. And a very real monetary cost exists, too.
According to the National Institute for Elopement Prevention and Resolution (www.elopement.org), 10 percent of all litigation against long-term care (LTC) facilities involves an elopement. The institute also cites figures from commercial property and casualty insurance provider CNA that the average out-of-court settlement for elopement incidents in 2009 was nearly $400,000.
Fortunately, LTC providers have resources available to them to help ensure resident safety, and the technology in the field of wander management continues to evolve to meet the needs of both facilities and residents.
The person-centered movement in the LTC industry has led to facilities focusing on the characteristics of each resident and trying to customize protection to each individual if he or she begins showing signs of dementia such as forms of wandering, says Steve Elder, senior marketing manager of Stanley Healthcare in Lincoln, Neb.
"Lockdown units will always be required, because some people reach a state where they really are a danger to themselves," Elder says. "But many people don't need that treatment. So rather than a 'one-size-fits-all approach,' in which residents are either in a unit or out, providers are looking for ways to tailor the systems functionality to the individual."
signal with that very low power. You're asking a receiver to pick up a very weak transmitter signal, and to do so, the receiver must be turned up extremely high. That means the receiver also picks up noise from vacuum cleaners, washing machines, television sets and everything else in the facility. The remedy for that is, the facility needs to invest in filters for all those things."
The problem with a high-frequency system, on the other hand, can be the difficulty in getting an accurate "fix" on where a resident is in a long hallway, for example, because the higher frequencies use narrower and more directional signals.
According to Barko, ELB Technologies' AtGuard and AllGuard system combines the qualities of low frequency and high frequency. The system uses a lowfrequency transmitter called an exciter. When a resident enters a field monitored by an exciter, the exciter's low-frequency signal activates the resident's wristband, which sends a high-frequency signal to a controller. This capability allows users to get the "field" exactly where they want while eliminating problems with noise. It also allows good flexibility.
"If a customer wants our system to be placed three feet from a door, I can set it three feet from that door," Barko says. "If they want it to be 30 feet from another door, I can set it 30 feet from that door." In addition, the wireless, smoke detector-sized exciter can be mounted on the ceiling or, in some cases above it, giving the facility a cleaner, high-end look without wires or wire conduit around the doors.
As with most electronic-based industries, wander management will continue to evolve and gain capabilities. These changes will lead to some great opportunities for facilities to "mine" their systems' data to help them understand changes in resident behavior.
"Many facilities are starting to expect information from their resident safety solutions to help them understand behavior patterns of residents," Elder says. "Then they're going beyond that by using the systems for staff tracking, monitoring response times to an incident and so on, so they can improve their performance," he adds. "They can also look at staffing: 'What are my busiest times? Are there times when I'm overstaffed or understaffed?' The more creative facilities are realizing that wandering management systems can be a valuable source of information to help them perform better." LTL
Ron Rajecki is a Cleveland-based freelance writer.