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RFID Helps Secure Dignity for Senior Community Residents

McLoughlin Place uses BriefWise to non-intrusively check the incontinent for wetness.
By Jennifer Zaino
Oct 09, 2016

There are many reasons organizations invest in RFID technology; saving time, reducing costs and eliminating human error rank high among them. But it's rare to hear organizations cite as a main factor for adopting RFID its role in supporting human dignity.

Yet, that's exactly the case when it comes to McLoughlin Place, a senior living community in Oregon City, Ore., whose facilities include memory-care and assisted-living residences. Most residents of McLoughlin Place, which is managed by Milestone Retirement Communities, live in its memory-care studios, says executive director Sherry Andrus. "A majority of these residents are incontinent or are going to become incontinent," she explains. Health aides must check incontinent residents for wetness multiple times a day to avoid their developing medical conditions such as urinary tract infections or pressure ulcers.

McLoughlin Place believes the RFID solution will help it stand out from other senior facilities.
It's an uncomfortable situation for patients to have someone physically check their underwear status. "Just because they have dementia doesn't mean they don't understand what's going on," Andrus says. When she learned from corporate about BriefWise, an RFID solution from WaveSensor that enables caregivers to check a resident for wetness in a non-intrusive manner, her interest was piqued. "It had to do with preserving their dignity 100 percent," she states. "When I found out how it works, I wanted to implement it immediately."

BriefWise includes three components: a peel-and-stick passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID sensor tag that attaches to the outside of any incontinence brief and can detect moisture without coming into contact with it; a U Grok It UHF RFID reader attached to an Apple iPod Touch, to read the sensor tag; and a mobile app, created by WaveSensor, that can run on any iOS device to let the caregiver know if the reading is wet or dry. (WaveSensor prefers the iPod Touch because it is smaller than an iPad and more cost-effective than an iPhone.) The company reports that the system can check for an incontinence event when a caregiver comes within 2 to 6 feet of a resident, though Andrus says the health-care aides at McLouglin Place—which began piloting the solution this summer—find it works best when they are within 3 feet of a resident.

That's not a complaint, Andrus notes. "We feel so strongly that this is a homelike environment, so it's wonderful to be able to conduct such an intimate task in a way that is almost invisible," she says. "It's so nice to be able to tell a family member that we are able to preserve their loved one's dignity—that our caregivers can just pat a resident on the shoulder in a nonchalant way and tell if she is wet or dry. That's just a value statement right there." Andrus believes this service will help McLoughlin Place stand out from other senior facilities.

Residents also benefit by not having to be pulled out of an activity they may be enjoying in order to conduct a check, and by not being disturbed while they are sleeping. Getting longer chunks of sleep is important, says Joelle Poe, WaveSensor's VP of operations, especially for those with dementia or Alzheimer's.

In addition, the aides gain more time to provide higher-value care to residents, since they now can conduct a check within seconds. A manual check can than take five to 10 minutes, and that time can add up quickly when residents require checks every couple of hours, which is industry best practice. "This gives our caregivers time with their days to do more for and with the residents," Andrus says.

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