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Enhanced Technology Ensures High-Quality Care for Older Adults During Staff Shortages

By Deric Blattenberger

The historic staffing shortages that are occurring throughout the health care industry are continuing to force nursing homes and older adult living communities to limit new admissions, creating bottlenecks and reducing quality of life for residents. Currently, 86% of nursing homes and 77% of assisted living providers say their workforce situations have worsened during the last three months. Due to these shortages, nearly every community is requesting that team members work overtime or pick up extra shifts. This leads to overworked staff, errors in care, and slower response times to resident needs.

The general standard for today’s nurse call systems in older adult care communities is a wired approach that provides basic functionalities such as dome lights, fixed call stations, an audio-visual alert panel at the nurse’s station, and manual reset required at the device. Where these solutions often fall short is the ability to improve resident care, increase operational efficiencies, and provide a sense of job satisfaction for caregivers. Many communities are beginning to consider options outside of wired solutions and turning to automation and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to provide better support to staff and ensure increased delivery and quality of care.

Community leaders must consider the additional investments necessary to optimize and support the existing workforce as skilled nursing and older adult care communities adapt to the increasing staff shortages and supply chain challenges across the industry. By embracing real-time location systems (RTLS), facilities can benefit residents, employees, visitors, and the bottom line.

Doing More With Less
The pandemic has caused constant disruption throughout the last two years. Regardless, residents still demand high-quality interactions, leading the digitization of care to accelerate in response and increase operational efficiencies. One of the greatest examples of that digitization is the growingintegration of IoT technology. These cost-effective digital upgrades improve resident care and enhance the resident experience by leveraging actionable information from robust data capture and analysis. For example, these enhancements provide a better understanding of the busiest times of day to help support staffing strategies and improve response times.

By integrating automated enhancements or RTLS software into existing wired nurse call systems, sophisticated workflows are made simple. These economical solutions include real-time alerts delivered to workstations and mobile devices, customizable escalation paths, wander management, asset tracking, contact tracing, advanced analytics, secure off-site system access, interactive campus maps, and more. This technology ensures that even the most resource constraint teams have real-time support and coverage throughout the campus. Communities also benefit by providing secure access to these technologies and tools from anywhere across the campus and offsite to increase mobility and support for staff.

The offerings provided by IoT technology and RTLS aid communities throughout their mission of continuously providing a high-quality experience and a safe environment. By using accurate location reporting, communities of all sizes can conduct more informed risk assessments, monitor the use and cleanliness of equipment, manage resident patterns, predict necessary interventions, and implement needed quarantine protocols that don’t impede care.

Real-Time Insights From Anywhere
With the integration of IoT technology and RTLS, older adult care communities can enhance response times to resident calls and provide resident independence and peace of mind. By enabling a data-driven approach to care and demanding more from existing wired nurse call and community systems, caregivers can meet the growing needs and requirements of older adult communities across the continuum of care.

Wander management remains a significant concern in these communities. At times, residents may become forgetful and wander into off-limit areas or exit the building, leading to dangerous situations. Utilizing anRTLS with other IoT-enabled devices allows staff to quickly and easily locate wandering residents in real-time and respectfully redirect them before they travel too far from the safety and security of their residence. This technology gives residents greater independence while providing the tools for staff to quickly remedy a potentially dangerous situation. Some systems also offer “roaming” capabilities, which send a real-time alert to staff if a resident is wandering toward an area they shouldn’t visit. With instantaneous notification, the need for more expensive door controllers and the feeling of resident “lockdown” can be avoided.

Resident and team awareness is always the most powerful “safety” tool, and RTLS creates a digital twin of the community for ultimate awareness and increased efficiency—from anywhere. Communities, more than ever before, are demanding an IoT and automated experience similar to the offerings of Apple and Amazon in their personal lives. These technologies augment aspects of the caregiver role without adding steps and empower managers with the information to make wise community decisions.

How RTLS Can Increase Safety — For Everyone
Traditionally, most location technologies available for the care of older adults only provide estimated location data or are considered too costly to implement. In an emergency, every second counts, and without accurate information, responding staff are often left guessing between floors and rooms—delaying critical resident care or important staff support. By implementing a cost-effective real-time system with accurate resident and staff alerts, peace of mind is further expanded throughout the community.

The lightweight, waterproof wearables pair to the community’s RTLS, making resident locating convenient and efficient for caregivers. These devices are commonly worn as pendants, belt clips, or watches. They are digitally assigned to residents and staff to provide definitive location information – both indoors and outdoors, creating an advanced emergency call system. RTLS sensors can be placed in strategic locations throughout the community, including individual buildings, floors, common areas, rooms, and outdoor campus grounds. Facilities can also use geofencing capabilities to create outdoor or additional indoor safe zones.

While real-time location insights can help redirect wander risks, they can provide crucial information for residents under duress. The IoT-enabled wearables can come equipped with emergency buttons that, when pushed, immediately notify nearby staff that a resident needs help or is in a dangerous situation. Staff wearables can also act as emergency buttons to notify additional staff or security when a request for assistance is required. This ensures that both residents and staff know that support is within reach with just the press of a button.

Find the Best Technology to Improve Care for Older Adults
By choosing a reliable, low-cost IoT solution, communities gain a completely deployed and operational system within days, and disruptions to residents and staff are minimal. Unlike other solutions or manual monitoring, automated systems ensure alerts are not missed, prioritize duress events, and navigate the fastest path from the alerting device to the system’s head-end. As IoT solutions continue to develop, the increased visibility improves staff operational workflow and minimizes the amount of time needed to look for a resident or team member.

Through automated systems, staff members are empowered to spend more time interacting with and caring for residents. In preparation for the aging population, older adult living communities must lay the groundwork and infrastructure to meet the needs of their residents. Seek a system specifically designed for the needs and requirements of these communities to deliver the best results. Selecting an RTLS partner with a comprehensive suite of IoT-enabled solutions and location certainty makes it easier to care for residents and expand the system to other aspects of operations as the future of senior living continues to evolve.

— Deric Blattenberger is the general manager of senior care at CenTrak, which offers locating, sensing, and security solutions for the health care industry. CenTrak has helped more than 2,000 health care organizations around the world build a safer, more efficient enterprise. For more information, visit