Wandering prevention systems have been in use for about twenty five years and are mainly used in hospitals, senior living communities and group homes. They can be recognized as a Wanderguard, the brand made by Stanley Senior Technologies. However, this term has become a generic name for all these systems much like the name Xerox has become synonymous with photocopying.
If a facility mentions they have a wander guard system, they may be simply implying that they have a wandering management system not one made by Stanley Senior Technologies. Some other major brands of these devices include; Code Alert from RF Technologies, Roam Alert and Watchmate both recently acquired brands of Stanley Senior Technologies, ResidentGuard by Accutech and finally the Securecare branded systems. If you are looking to place your loved one with Alzheimer’s or Dementia related concerns in a senior living facility, make sure that you have a good understanding of how the system works and how the staff is trained to respond to these situations.
Wandering behavior most often makes the news when a resident leaves a care facility; like a retirement home, assisted living facility or nursing home and dies. Elopements make up about ten percent of lawsuits against facilities and seventy percent of those involve a resident death. Most of the residents that this happens to are known to be at risk to the staff before the event occurs. The leading causes of death or injury in these situations are:
– Exposure to heat or cold
– Traffic related injuries
Elopements are considered one of the 28 Never Events that are serious and preventable. This behavior affects approximately ten percent of senior living residents. It may occur in higher percentages in nursing homes or if the facility has a higher demographic of public payer residents. There are two main types of wandering alarms a facility can use to warn staff that an elopement may be occurring.
The first type of security is a perimeter alarm. This is an alarm that is usually tripped with a simple door contact switch. It alarms the staff if a door that should not be opened has, no matter who opened the door. Some facilities prefer to add keypad or card reader bypasses for staff, that allows authorized and trained persons to pass through the door without sounding alarms. This helps to make these doors usable without causing loud alarms that annoy residents and staff alike. Assuming that there is a properly trained and engaged staff, this system works well in small facilities if they do not give the bypass codes to visitors.
The second type of alarm is the wandering management or wanderguard system. These systems usually involve some type of antenna system connected to a controller and a door contact switch. Residents who are at risk wear a wrist or ankle transmitter . When a person with a transmitter walks up to a door that is protected by this type of system the antenna singles out the transmitter of the resident. It allows free passage for any staff, visitors or residents in or out of accessible parts of the facility. In most cases the door will have to actually open to alarm. Making the system have to have to separate events occur to alarm reduces false alarms. This helps to ensure that staff members do not become desensitized by a system that is always going off.
Wandering systems are a great tool to help keep at-risk residents safe but as with all tools the system must be maintained. If finding a facility having a good wandering prevention system is a concern to you because of your loved, one make sure you ask and understand how it works, how the staff is trained to respond, and how it is maintained. A wandering system alone will not keep your loved ones safe if the staff is not engaged.