Recent technological advancements in the senior living industry have made it possible for senior housing residents to live more comfortably, safely, and independently than ever before. These advancements, including intelligent monitoring systems that enable true preventative care and can warn caregivers before negative health events like falls ever occur, can improve quality of life for residents, while allowing senior community clinical directors to provide better quality of care for increasingly complex resident populations.
While monitoring for resident falls is one of the most commonly utilized “alerts” at senior living communities, it’s certainly not the end of the road when it comes to what care directors can – and should – be monitoring for.
Here are five other alerts care directors should set up and be monitoring at senior living communities.
1. Vital sign monitoring and early illness detection
Sensors either worn by residents, embedded into their clothes, or tucked discreetly under a mattress can passively monitor vital signs such as blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and respiration rate. When linked up to a centralized software system such as an EHR, these data points can be tracked directly in a patient’s chart. The best of these technologies go even further, by feeding passively obtained vital signs into artificial intelligence-powered software that’s able to interpret changes in vital signs as potential indicators of more serious situations such as the onset or relapse of illness.
2. Pressure ulcers
As seniors find themselves slowing down and spending more time in a reclined or recumbent position, the development of pressure ulcers becomes increasingly likely. Pressure-sensitive mats placed under residents’ mattresses can be connected to software that allows care providers to monitor resident motion (or lack thereof) and generate alerts when a particular resident is at risk of developing a pressure ulcer. Such alerts can not only cue care providers into when a pressure ulcer may have already begun to develop, but provide insight into which residents may be most likely to suffer from them and take steps towards preventing the ulcers’ development.
3. Wander alerts
Senior care providers are no strangers to the risks that come with caring for residents whose Alzheimer’s or dementia leaves them vulnerable to wandering. Residents in need of memory care require special monitoring, even in the early stages of the illnesses when a wandering issue might not yet be clearly evident. GPS technology offers great opportunity in this realm. Geo-fences can be established around specified areas, and wearable devices can be programmed to send alerts to caregivers when a senior has left the geo-fenced area.
4. Activity monitoring
Beyond monitoring lack of activity as a sign of pressure ulcers or changes in movement patterns as an indicator of new or worsening illness, care directors should also consider implementing overall resident activity monitoring and alerts for loved ones or caregivers. With activity monitoring, daily tasks such as making coffee, toast or switching on the morning news can be monitored through wireless technology that sends notifications to pre-approved family members and helps them stay connected with their loved ones. Sensors can be placed on designated items and send text messages or email notifications once they are turned on or off. Instead of having to check in every morning, seniors are able to retain greater independence.
If your community offers independent living where seniors are responsible for their own medication management, reminders can be sent to residents to ensure they are not skipping a dose, whether purposefully or simply forgetting, and to care providers to keep them up-to-date on a resident’s medication use. Some devices can make pill bottles buzz a reminder to take medications, while others will text or email a caregiver if one is missed and a bottle not opened within a certain period of time.
In today’s competitive market, it’s a selling point to offer senior living residents as much independence as safely as possible. A few standard alerts can mean less physical oversight by staff and family, and more time spent on what each resident finds important – whether that’s visits with family or activities with friends. Family will feel assured knowing their loved one’s health is being monitored, and caregivers will feel confident they can catch and address problems before they become a concern.
Depending on the medical complexity of the resident population, senior housing facility type, and even average resident age, the levels of care and monitoring needed at senior living communities can vary greatly. Some are intergenerational communities, while others are only meant for a specific group such as those with memory loss. Regardless of the senior housing facility type, care directors can’t go wrong by researching the various alert options available to them today.
Beyond fall alerts, what are some of the alerts your senior living community uses, and why? Let us know in the comments section below.