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Las Vegas-area Nursing Facility Adopts RFID for Memory-Impaired Residents

At TLC Care Center, dementia patients wear wristbands with active tags that trigger alerts and lock doors if they approach an exit.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 20, 2010When TLC Care Center, a rehabilitation, therapy and long-term nursing facility located approximately 20 miles southeast of Las Vegas, opened its new memory wing for residents with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of advanced dementia, it provided an RFID-enabled bracelet to each of the wing's residents, to ensure they don't wander away. By installing the system with the wing's very first residents, and by tweaking it as the number of residents grew, the center was able to customize the read range as necessary, to be sure alarms were sounded only when patients attempted to leave a secured area. Now, as the facility continues to grow, the system is tracking the locations of the wing's residents (it can accommodate a total of 50) with few false alarms.

Before the wing opened in February 2010, TLC Care Center sought an appropriate resident-tracking system that would ensure the safety of those in its care, preventing them from wandering away. The company narrowed down its choices to four RFID vendors, before eventually selecting Accutech's ResidentGuard wandering system—because Accutech proved to be so responsive to its needs, the center indicates, answering questions more quickly and thoroughly than its competitors.

Accutech’s ResidentGuard RFID tag and wristband
With that system in place, TLC was able, during the first few months, to eliminate false alarms and adjust the system as its resident population grew. This, says Al Arzola, TLC Care Center's facility manager, was due, in large part, to Accutech being quick to respond to problems with false alarms, and solving them by adjusting antennas and read-range thresholds.

TLC opened the new memory wing in February as an extension of its existing nursing facility. The wing has two units—one for those who are physically active, and another for those requiring the use of a wheelchair or a walker to get about, or who are unable to leave their beds. A door separates the two units. TLC wanted a non-intrusive system that would allow employees and visitors to pass through the door between the units, but that would automatically lock it if a resident of either unit approached. "We don't want there to ever be a situation in which one person could cause harm to another," Arzola says—by passing through the door, for example, from the active unit to the less active unit, where he or she could potentially be aggressive to, or accidentally injure, another resident.

The care center also wanted to ensure that residents did not leave the memory wing and wander into the rest of the facility, such as the respiratory unit, where patients receive other types of care. Finally, the center sought to make sure residents did not leave the facility without an escort and become lost. Although the wing has many staff members, Arzola says, including spotters—whose sole responsibility is to monitor residents' location and safety—they can not watch every resident all of the time. As such, he notes, an automated system would provide an additional level of security.

The Accutech ResidentGuard system comes with eight RFID readers deployed throughout the facility—each representing a zone within the wing where doors are located—and Accutech's Cut Band wristbands, which contain an active RFID tag that constantly transmits a unique ID number at 418 MHz, using a proprietary air-interface protocol. The 418 MHz frequency, says Chris Konicek, Accutech's marketing manager, is lower than the electromagnetic waves emitted by other electronic devices, such as IV pumps, heart monitors, televisions or exit signs, thereby ensuring the tags' signals do not interfere with the multiple other transmissions typically being sent within health-care environments.

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