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Massachusetts Long-Term Care Facilities Eliminate Alarms

March 19, 2015

Two long-term care facilities affiliated with Hebrew SeniorLife in Massachusetts eliminated the use of alarms on residents’ beds and wheelchairs with minimal ill effect, the Boston Globe reported on March 12.

The alarms, which are used as a fall-prevention measure, were criticized for being too sensitive, causing residents to live in constant worry that they would trigger them at the slightest movement.

The sensitive alarms would “actually impair [residents’] mobility and make them at more risk for falls,” said Karen Drake, the head of the post-acute unit at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center (HRC) in Roslindale, one of the two facilities — along with NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham — that have eliminated alarms.

Combined, NewBridge and HRC have approximately 600 residents, 30 to 40 percent of whom had alarms affixed to their beds and/or wheelchairs.

Staff at the two facilities got the idea to eliminate alarms after attending the 2012 Pioneer Network National Conference, which featured a session that debunked the conventional wisdom about the effectiveness of alarms as a fall-prevention tool.

In 2013, the facilities began to move away from alarms in favor of “purposeful rounding,” an initiative in which nurses and certified nurse aides periodically checked in on residents to ask whether all their needs were met.

The shift away from alarms has not increased fall frequency within the two facilities. Additionally, the Globe reports that evidence exists suggesting that eliminating alarms lessens the severity of fall-related injuries.

Residents can still use alarms at the two facilities if they or their families prefer, the Globe reported.

Hebrew SeniorLife is working with the PHI Coaching & Consulting Services team to help facilitate their culture change journey.

— by Matthew Ozga

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