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RFID Improves Safety at Assisted-Living Facility

Ohio's Light of Hearts Villa deployed a real-time location system to better identify residents in need of services.
By Bob Violino
Mar 23, 2014

Light of Hearts Villa, a faith-based assisted-living facility located in Bedford, Ohio, provides a residential living environment for more than 400 senior citizens. The facility is a co-sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and the Sisters of Charity Health System, and one of its main priorities is to ensure the ongoing safety of its elderly residents.

Since Light of Hearts Villa opened its doors in 1989, residents in need of help have used fixed pull cords installed in living areas and bathrooms, as well as landline or mobile telephones, to call for assistance. "However, in many instances it was difficult for residents to reach these locations, especially if they had fallen and were immobile," says Elizabeth Hickle, the facility's executive director. "When a pull cord is engaged, it sets off a very loud alarm throughout the facility, which can be disturbing to residents." The audible alarm, as well as a blinking light outside the apartment, would remain active until a staff member arrived to deactivate the cord.

Light of Hearts Villa
Light of Hearts Villa's managers sought a better method of identifying residents requiring services. In 2013, the facility deployed a real-time location system (RTLS) from Stanley Healthcare, a Waltham, Mass., provider of safety, security and operational efficiency products for the health-care industry. The solution enables residents to call for assistance from any location within the multi-story building, Hickle says, as well as from the surrounding gardens.

Going Wireless
The facility's managers knew they needed to upgrade the existing nurse communications system, Hickle says. In May 2012, they began working closely with the Sisters of Charity Health System's IT department to determine how best to update the communications infrastructure. Together, she says, they selected a local company called Zenith Systems to install routers and Wi-Fi capability throughout the facility, as well as in the gardens.

Each resident wears an AeroScout wireless tag on a lanyard, which enables him or her to call for help from anywhere in the facility or on its grounds—such as while playing bingo.
Following the network upgrade—which began in mid-2012 and took roughly six months to complete—management at Light of Hearts Villa began searching for a company that could provide a wireless emergency call system. The managers had several criteria for the selection, Hickle says. First, they wanted to increase residents' safety, both inside and outside their apartments, and reduce the number of audible alarms. Another requirement was to leverage the new investment in Wi-Fi coverage throughout the premises. Finally, the organization sought to collect data regarding response times and resident call patterns, to further improve its performance and care levels. "When a resident pulled the [emergency] cord, it was impossible to determine the response time of staff to the resident's need," Hickle explains.

"In that situation, you're left with peoples' impressions," such as residents complaining that it took a nurse a long time to respond, says Steve Elder, Stanley Healthcare's senior marketing manager. "Or you have to actually shadow a staff member and measure response times manually—and that is just not feasible. Without the day-in-day-out data, you can't really know what your performance is."

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