People with Alzheimer’s and other conditions which affect the memory have a tendency to wander away from their homes or the assisted care facilities in which they are living. This is called elopement, and it is a real problem for those who are providing care to such patients. The development of wandering management solutions using radio frequency identification (RFID) has proved to be a tremendous leap forward in the approach to the problem.
No longer must affected residents be restricted to locked wards. The innovation of RFID technology has made dementia wander prevention more efficient for care providers, while also giving patients a higher quality of life, because they can be allowed to live among the general population. Staff can focus more fully on their duties without having to be continually vigilant for elopement. Facility operators don’t have to worry about the legal concerns that are associated with the risk of wandering patients.
The cost of installing one of the RFID wander management solutions for assisted living facilities (ALF) is reasonable, and the system pays for itself fairly quickly in savings elsewhere. The system can also be used to manage assets and inventory, and for tracking, adding to the benefits of the cost. Because the system is modular and expandable, facilities can start small and continue to add functionality as needed without having to purchase new base equipment. More uses for this type of RFID technology are being discovered every day.
The transmitter tag contains individualized data for the patient. Using the web-based system software, permissions can be customized for each monitored area and patient group. The action taken by the system when it is triggered ranges from a simple alarm alert to the automated locking of doors or elevators and sending of email alerts to staff.
Tags are most often sewn directly into the clothing. Short term memory issues may lead dementia patients to forget what the tag is and remove it. Sewing the tag into the clothing eliminates this concern. It is more attractive, as well. Wristband style transmitters can also be used.
One of the qualities that makes RFID ideal for wandering management applications is that multiple transmissions can be read simultaneously. Radio frequencies don’t require a direct line-of-sight to the reader, so there are no blind spots. Multiple frequencies expand the response and capabilities of the system.
Patients who have the independence to move around are less stressed. Studies have shown that the sense of community provided by being able to mix with the other patients as desired is an important aspect of overall mental and physical health. The dementia wander prevention system can be utilized both indoors and outdoors, giving patients the freedom to go for a walk or enjoy the garden, while keeping them safe and secure.
The future of wander management solutions for ALF lies in these RFID technologies. They are simple to implement and unobtrusive. The peace of mind that they provide for both families of dementia patients and for the staff and operators of facilities cannot be overstated.