What You Need to Know Before Installing Fall Monitoring Systems in Senior Living Communities

Talk to anyone who has helped a senior living community implement a fall-monitoring system and they’re sure to tell you that a lot of things have to be contemplated and considered well in advance of its installation.

…If you want this technological integration to be a success, that is.

Assuming that describes the circumstances of you and your colleagues, here are a handful of examples of things you should know, recognize, and reflect upon before you and your staff members can even begin to think about relying on these products to help you prevent resident falls.

These aren’t your mother’s “alarm systems.”

Long gone are the days when fall monitoring systems simply alerted—often by using alarms that sounded throughout a particular building or ward—a senior living community’s caregivers to the fact that one of their residents may have fallen.

Today, these products zero in on specific staff members by sending alerts directly to them wherever they may be via their communication device of choice—whether it’s a laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

That’s a key advancement, as it decreases confusion and keeps staffers from experiencing “alarm fatigue” while also increasing the amount of time and attention they can devote to resident assistance and care.

Many of these systems go far beyond fall detection to offer true preventative care.

Although earlier iterations of fall monitoring systems focused mainly on fall detection, more modern versions that are increasingly being installed in senior living communities focus on preventing such incidents from occurring. And what’s more, preventing falls is just the beginning of what care-enhancing capabilities these services can provide.

Today’s systems are no longer simply alerting caregivers and administrators to the fact that a resident just pushed the button on the pendant that hangs from her neck (which means she may have fallen); they’re also alerting them to the fact that, say, a specific resident has yet to get out of bed (even though she’s usually up and about by now) or has spent quite a bit more time than usual in the bathroom.

Plus, many health and fall monitoring systems can also track a resident’s vital signs and report anything that seems out of the ordinary to staff members. Staff can then review minute-by-minute, as well as longitudinal information to see if a negative health event may be on the horizon for that resident.

The point of this type of “health monitoring” isn’t to intrude on someone’s privacy, of course: it’s to help senior living communities keep their resident populations as safe, secure, and healthy as possible. Thankfully, many of the health and fall monitoring systems that are on the market today are discrete in terms of how they keep a watchful eye on residents – meaning, they enable senior living communities to provide better care without making residents feel like their privacy is being infringed upon.

They can collect valuable information about your residents, too.

Again, this particular aspect of modern fall management and health monitoring systems isn’t supposed to be Big Brother-ish. Instead, it’s designed to help senior housing providers collect and analyze data about residents in an effort to protect them from illness and harm. While these systems can deliver privacy-protected video notification of a fall to caregivers or others, they can also passively collect, process, and interpret vast amounts of health information.

This is accomplished via sensors that can placed within a community’s shared and private living spaces – or even worn by senior residents themselves (via the aforementioned pendants or even patches, watches, and belts). These sensors continuously send data to software systems designed to interpret trends and recognize patterns – or deviations thereof. This enables care providers to act upon changes in health status information for each individual resident.

Consider bandwidth.

While modern fall and health monitoring systems can greatly improve the quality of care housing operators can provide in senior living communities, the increased care comes at a price: bandwidth. Many of the more advanced systems require continuous secure data streaming from remote sensor units to a centralized computer database, and those that use video recording of falls require large packets of video data to be quickly sent to a variety of devices.

Even the best systems are only as good as the networks they run upon. Before installing fall monitoring systems or otherwise, consider doing an audit of your current network capabilities. Ideally, your network should be able to support the systems you’re currently running (for example, wireless internet throughout your community, your EHR or care management software, wander management or security camera feeds, as well as any other high-speed internet considerations), as well as the sometimes-large bandwidth requirements of modern health and fall-monitoring systems.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking fall monitoring systems alone will eliminate resident falls.

As capable as most health monitoring systems are these days, senior housing operators shouldn’t look to them as end-all, be-all solutions for reducing or eliminating resident falls.

More specifically, health and fall monitoring systems shouldn’t be viewed as ways to prevent all resident falls on their own. Instead, senior housing operators should view fall monitoring systems and technologies as valuable tools that can assist them and their care-focused staff members in intervening before falls and other incidents take place.

To get the most out of health and fall monitoring systems, though, senior living operators should invest in ongoing training and support. One way of accomplishing that feat is to either select a product that comes with on-site support staff, or designate a new or current staffer with product expertise and who can take ownership of low-level issues, provide training, or even serve as an on-site technical support aid.

Has your company installed or implemented a fall-management or health-monitoring system in one or more of its communities? If so, what are some of the things you had to know and consider before it was fully introduced to your staff members, residents, and their loved ones?

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