Every year a large number of generally older people fall victim to diseases traditionally referred to as ‘ageing’ diseases. The best known of these is Alzheimer’s Disease where the patients spend an increasing proportion of their time confused and unable to recognise usually familiar people. This is distressing to family as the patients become unable to look after themselves and they often have to be admitted to a permanent care home.
During their bouts of confusion Alzheimer’s Disease patients, can be prone to wander off without warning and can get lost. In extreme cases they can be involved in accidents which may result in serious injury or death. In some far northern countries a patient who wanders in winter has a high chance of freezing to death in the subzero temperatures.
So what are the solutions?
There are several ways of ensuring a patient does not wander. Not all of them are, thankfully, acceptable in today’s caring societies. Some years ago a patient prone to wandering may have been physically restrained or some patients may have been kept on high levels of drugs, thereby keeping them in a semi-comatose state. Today though, this kind of restraint would be considered an abuse of the basic civil rights of the patient in many countries throughout the world (which often results in hospitals and care home refusing to accept wandering patients). Happily, there is an increasingly popular alternative which offers the patient a high level of safety without having to resort to restraint. This method is both helpful to the care staff, humane to the patient and is not an abuse of human rights. Bewator Ltd manufactures a Wanderer Control system which allows patients unrestricted movement throughout the hospital or care home but will stop them passing through doors which they are not allowed.
How does this work?
In any hospital or care home the general requirement is for the building to be open and freely accessible to patients and their relatives. This implies that all doors are unlocked during the day allowing unrestricted access to everyone. It is this environment that makes it so difficult to stop patients from wandering. Certain doors, usually those leading to the outside, will be designated as ‘wanderer’ doors, which are the doors that the wanderer patients are not allowed to go through. An inductive loop is placed around these doors, (see diagram), which emits low frequency RF at 132KHz. The loop is attached to the Bewator 5411 controller. The patient wearing a uniquely coded Bewator “Cotag” Wrist tag, typically on their wrist but, in some cases, this can be worn on the ankle instead, is allowed normal access throughout the building in the same way as all the other patients, thereby ensuring no discrimination between them and any other patient. If, however, the patient approaches a door designated a ‘wanderer’ door through which he or she is not allowed, then the system can be set up to initiate certain actions as described below.
1. Lock the door that would normally be open.
This is the quickest and easiest way of effecting wanderer control. The patient wearing the tag approaches the door – the loop around the door is capable of reading a tag which is up to 2M distance in less than 60ms – the loop detects the presence of a tag and locks the door to stop the patient from opening it.
2. Lock the door that would normally be open and set off a local alarm
By using the alarm feature, which can be placed by the door through which the patient is trying to go, near the nursing station or in any other strategic position in the building, an audible warning is given to the care staff to alert them that a patient has tried to leave through one of the ‘wanderer’ doors. This enables them to know that an event has happened but, because the door is locked, they need not take immediate action. Locking the door also requires an override facility to handle with fires and other emergencies.
3. Set off a local alarm leaving the door unlocked
In this scenario more urgent action would be required by the care staff in that all the system will do is alert them to the fact that a patient has gone through a ‘wanderer’ door. Then they must go and find the patient without necessarily knowing who it is they are looking for.
4. Lock the door and send a signal via a paging system
In this installation the controller, instead of setting off the local alarm (this can be kept as a requirement if so desired) sends a signal to a central paging system and can send messages to the pager with details of who the patient is and what door they are trying to pass through.
5. Send signal via a paging system leaving the door unlocked
Again this scenario requires more urgent action, as the patient is able to open the door and pass through. At least the care staff know who they are looking for and through which door they have passed. On occasions there will be a requirement for the patient to pass through the door legitimately. In this case the care staff may be given authorisation to accompany the patient through the loop without setting off the configured alarm action. This is achieved by issuing the care staff with a tag known as an ‘Override’ or “Escort” tag that overrides the alarm action from the patient’s tag thus allowing them the possibility to take patients freely through the door.