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Understanding the Basics of a Wandering Management System

Wandering prevention systems have been in use for approximately twenty-five years and are primarily used in hospitals, seniors’ residences, and group homes. They can be recognized as a Wanderguard, the brand manufactured by Stanley Senior Technologies. However, this term has become a generic name for all of these systems, just as the name Xerox has become synonymous with photocopying.

If a facility states that it has a wander protection system, it may simply imply that it has a wander management system that is not manufactured by Stanley Senior Technologies. Some other top brands of these devices include; Code Alert from RF Technologies, Roam Alert and Watchmate recently acquired brands from Stanley Senior Technologies, ResidentGuard from Accutech and finally Securecare branded systems. If you are looking to place your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in a seniors’ residence, make sure you understand how the system works and how staff are trained to respond to these situations.

Wandering behavior is most often in the news when a resident leaves a care facility; such as a nursing home, assisted living facility or retirement home and dies. Runaways account for about ten percent of lawsuits against facilities, and seventy percent of those involve the death of a resident. Most residents this happens to are known to be at risk to staff before the event occurs. The main causes of death or injury in these situations are:

– Exposure to heat or cold

– Drowning

– Traffic injuries

Running away is considered one of the 28 Never Serious and Preventable Events. This behavior affects approximately ten percent of residents of seniors’ residences. This may occur in higher percentages in nursing homes or if the facility has a higher demographic of public paying residents. There are two main types of wandering alarms that a facility can use to alert staff that a leak may be occurring.

The first type of security is a perimeter alarm. This is an alarm that is usually triggered by a simple door contact switch. It alarms staff if a door that should not be opened has, regardless of who opened the door. Some facilities prefer to add keypad or card reader bypasses for personnel, allowing authorized and trained individuals to walk through the door without triggering an alarm. This makes these doors usable without causing loud alarms that annoy residents and staff. Assuming there are properly trained and committed staff, this system works well in small facilities if they don’t give out bypass codes to visitors.

The second type of alarm is the wander management or wander protection system. These systems usually involve some type of antenna system connected to a controller and door contact switch. At-risk residents wear a wrist or ankle transmitter. When a person equipped with a transmitter approaches a door protected by this type of system, the antenna selects the transmitter of the resident. It allows the free passage of any personnel, visitor or resident inside or outside the accessible parts of the establishment. In most cases, the door will need to open to trigger an alarm. Requiring the system to separate events to trigger an alarm reduces false alarms. This ensures that staff members are not desensitized to a system that is constantly tripping.

Wandering systems are a great tool for keeping at-risk residents safe, but as with all tools, the system needs to be maintained. If you are concerned about finding a facility with a good wander prevention system because of your loved one, be sure to ask and understand how it works, how staff are trained to respond, and how they are maintained. A roaming system alone will not be enough to keep your loved ones safe if staff are not engaged.

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