Like many aphorisms, “prevention is the best cure” has been overused to the point of becoming tired. Yet no five words could better summarize the value of a proactive approach in healthcare, especially in its sister calling, senior care.
Proactive Senior Care: More than Putting Out Fires
Some assisted living facilities and other senior care providers have become frozen in a reactive mindset when approaching resident care. It becomes a vicious circle whereby the immediate needs of patients command all of the staff’s resources, taking away from time and energy spent on prevention, leading to patients with higher care needs due to the lack time and energy invested in keeping them well or addressing underlying issues. Clinical directors at assisted living facilities often feel that they only have the resources to “put out fires”, rather than be the Smokey the Bear of senior care.
Ultimately, resources invested in prevention and proactive care can reduce adverse health events that commonly occur at assisted living communities. Problems such as falls, the development of pressure ulcers, and undetected illnesses can all be mitigated with proactive care approaches and technologies. In particular, passive (or ambient) sensor-based monitoring technologies allow staff to focus on their core roles as caregivers and facilitators, while assuring that warning signs are not overlooked.
Adverse Health Events Averted with Proactive Care and Passive Monitoring
Passive health monitoring and alert technologies are one of the most promising strategies in proactive elder care specifically because it allows caregiving staff to “keep an eye” on a patient without taking away from caregivers’ essential duties.
Fall reduction: A truly proactive approach towards fall reduction combines rigorous, ongoing testing of resident’s ambulation by professionals, with fall risk assessment performed 24/7 by passive monitoring systems that are attuned to residents normal patterns, and can alert staff when warning signs indicating increased risk of fall are present.
Pressure ulcer avoidance: By the time a pressure ulcer has developed, it can be very difficult to cure. Even examinations by physicians and caregivers on a regular basis can miss the warning signs of an impending pressure ulcer, or a pressure ulcer in the early stages of formation. Today’s passive monitoring technologies can measure over 1,700 pressure points more than 50 times per second, and can warn staff so that they can take countermeasures before a wound develops.
Early illness detection: Assisted living facilities are not hospitals. There are not doctors who make rounds checking on every resident on a daily basis. To a large degree, detection of illnesses has relied on self-reporting by residents, and the observations of caregiving staff, who, despite all their virtues, are not physicians. In an ideal world, assisted living clinical directors would like to be able to track the vital signs of their residents on a regular basis, but this has not been viable before the introduction of non-intrusive monitoring technologies. Sensor based monitoring technologies powered by artificial intelligence software can provide assisted living facilities early warnings of illnesses, from the mild, such as a common cold, to the serious, such as a heart attack, stroke or respiratory illness.
Proactive Care Pays
Proactive care is quality care, and quality care means improved quality of life. Residents with a better quality of life stay at the senior communities they call home for longer. For every serious adverse health event that is prevented in assisted living, there is one resident on the census who has not been lost due to the need to move to a higher level of care. This is good for the senior and also the provider, for whom length-of-stay is a key variable influencing the ever important occupancy rate.
In the past, providers frequently paid lip service to proactive or preventative senior care, but 21st century technologies have made proactive senior care a reality. Adopting a technology-enabled proactive approach to care using passive monitoring technologies not only betters resident’s lives, it can be a turning point in the evolution of a more prosperous assisted living community.