In news that is shaking up senior living communities, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has put serious restrictions on the use of bed and chair alarms-but only those that sound alarms near the resident. This will cause many senior housing communities to reevaluate their nurse call and advanced monitoring technologies to ensure they will comply with the new regulations, effective at the end of November, 2017.

CMS issued new bed and chair alarm restricctionsAccording to CMS, a revision to the State Operations Manual will now classify bed and chair alarms, or any position change alarms which make an audible noise near the resident as a restraint. Restraints can only be used when deemed medically necessary and even then, must be continuously reevaluated for use. In other words, if a resident can hear the alarm that the sensor makes, it would be not authorized for general use.

There are many good reasons for this regulation. CMS explains the rationale to ban these devices as potentially harmful emotionally and physically to the resident:

  • Loss of dignity
  • Decreased mobility
  • Bowel and bladder incontinence
  • Sleep disturbances due to the sound of the alarm or because the resident is afraid to move in bed thereby setting off the alarm
  • Confusion, fear, agitation, anxiety, or irritation in response to the sound of the alarm as residents may mistake the alarm as a warning or as something they need to get away from.

According to the newly implemented CMS revisions: “While position change alarms may be implemented to monitor a resident’s movements, for some residents, the use of position change alarms that are audible to the resident(s) may have the unintended consequence of inhibiting freedom of movement. For example, a resident may be afraid to move to avoid setting off the alarm and creating noise that is a nuisance to the resident(s) and staff, or is embarrassing to the resident. For this resident, a position change alarm may have the potential effect of a physical restraint.”

Communities must adapt and quickly to this change. But, fortunately communities have a better choice, not only for complying with the new requirements, but for making the quality of life better within the community. RCare’s bed and chair sensors are seamlessly integrated into all of the RCare nurse call systems and discreetly alert staff, without embarrassing or disrupting the resident. This is why RCare continues to integrate a wide variety of environmental and activity monitoring sensors into its wireless nurse call solutions.

RCare bed and chair alarmsCommunities have good reasons for using position change sensors. It’s important to know if a resident may need help. It’s important to know if someone is having a restless night, or if they haven’t moved from the couch or gotten out of bed. And it’s important to know if they’ve gotten out of the wheelchair.

With RCare, alerts go directly to the nurse station and can message or call the wireless RPhones carried by staff. The event is automatically logged. The “I got it” feature enables caregivers to claim the call, so there’s no duplication of response effort, and no alert goes unanswered.

These kinds of incidents make up a record that helps staff tailor a plan of care for each resident. This record helps staff, and families, know when the situation has changed and the plan of care needs to change as well. It keeps a record of the the resident/care staff interaction, too, which is critical for resident-centered care and quality.

In addition to bed and chair sensors, the RCare system integrates with universal contact sensors and passive sensors to detect unsafe room temperature levels, refrigerator temperature fluctuations, and water overflows. And, of course, the system integrates with a full range of resident-activated devices, such as push-button pendants, pull cords, and the like. The new GeoPendant can set safe zones for residents who need it, so care staff are discreetly alerted if and when particular residents move outside their designated safe area. No more loud alarms.

Having a single system that channels all alerts to the same receivers makes sense for busy care staff, who can monitor all concerns, wherever they are, on their mobile device. Having those alerts be discreet and quiet makes for a better living and working environment for everyone. And most importantly, getting rid of those noisy alarms is good for the health and the safety of the residents and the caregiving staff.