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RFID Gives Dementia Patients Their Freedom

Thanks to passive tags sewed into clothing, residents at risk for wandering away from the Shady Palms assisted-living facility no longer need to be confined to a secured area.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
According to Bennett, staff members can also employ a handheld RFID reader to locate articles of tagged clothing. Early tests have shown that this can be a useful application, he explains, since residents sometimes misplace their clothing. He says he's also considering a move to tag all clothing for every resident, so that the garments can be better tracked as they are put through the laundering process. Other elder-care facilities are also carrying out similar practices (see For Improving Elderly Care, RFID Is on the Button)

Additionally, Kostis has also introduced a number of other RFID systems to Shady Palms. The facility utilizes active 915 MHZ RFID tags for tracking such high-value, reusable assets as wheelchairs or medical equipment. Active tags operating at 433 MHz, and featuring a panic button, are also issued to residents who may require immediate assistance. If they fall or become ill, these individuals are asked to press the button to summon help from the staff, who see the alert on their computers of PDAs.

In addition to business process benefits, Kostis says—such as better asset utilization and reduced labor—the other applications will enable Shady Palms to see a return on its investment in the technology more quickly than it would if it used RFID only for elopement control.

Kostis and Bennett are also testing RFID applications for theft deterrence, as well as for better employee performance, through a task management system. This would entail having employees carry handheld RFID readers, which they would use to record the steps they take in performing certain tasks.

"This will record services performed in real time," Bennett says, "and the data can be fed into our Medicaid billing system, and that will provide us enormous savings on man hours," because the services won't need to be manually recorded. Shady Palms also recently hosted a test of an RFID-based system for identifying residents more at risk for dementia (see RFID Helps Diagnose Early Dementia).

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