Silent locks & access control in LTC

Long-term care has always had certain access-control needs that are common to all multiresident spaces, but it also has specific access needs that are unique to long-term care (LTC) environments. LTC housing needs security strategies that keep the right people in and the wrong people out—while also tracking who has accessed which resident units—and the meds cabinet. And these days, one proverbial key does not fit all.

Senior living markets in the United States are experiencing a refurbishing boom and a new-build boom. For some regions, it’s the first market boom in years. As senior housing design continues to move away from the institutionalized, corridor-based design into a more open-frame, open-space attitude toward senior housing, electronic access control reaches into safety aspects like never before.


Any caregiver can tell you that a resident with Parkinson’s disease will fumble with physical door keys. And a patient with dementia may easily lose a key, or forget which door it refers to. The key is, ditch the keys, says Dale Mathias, vice president of multihousing sales, Kaba.

Today, everything is about wireless/RFID and proximity-based access control, he says. “When senior communities first started putting early access control in place, it was on the community spaces—the front doors, public spaces or public fitness area. At first, they didn’t think about extending that to the residence unit doors. Now, you can tailor each resident’s access to every area in a large facility, including time parameters, if the pool area or dining room is closed at a certain time.”

Having electronic access control systems can solve plenty of hassles for LTC administrators, including resident squabbles over lost possessions or accusations against staff, Mathias adds. “When you have intelligent locks, all the access is audited—for residents and nursing staff or maintenance.” 


Location-based access controls have long matured in wireless forms. Spaces can now be monitored differently based on role-access, including common spaces, private rooms, and secured areas such as pharmacy and equipment storage. Wearable badges or wristbands can be programmed with roles-based access control and can be managed from a single administrative console.

RF Technologies’ Code Alert solutions allow administrators to provide resident safety through the use of remote monitoring and silent alarms based on the resident’s proximity to a familiar doorway or a disallowed space. Touchpad exit controllers on resident rooms combined with wearable transmitters allow constant tracking of who enters or exits a room, without having to physically keylock the door.

Discreet monitoring of the living spaces enhances the safety of residents against both intrusion and wandering, while providing the sense of personal control over the space.


More than one-third of nursing assistants sustain injuries at the hands of their residents, according to the American Journal of Public Health. For caregivers in dementia care units, the numbers are likely to be much higher. National journals have noted that simple events like bathing can spur violent outbursts in residents with dementia. Residents can also frequently bite caregivers during dental care. Residents also can become combative with each other, with fights stemming from social competition, arguments between roommates and/or overreactions to the behavior of others, notes The Gerontologist.

Instead of overhead paging systems calling out “code gray,” safety technology is now turning to miniaturized wireless transmitters that can silently alert other staff members to an incident in progress, and get help to the right place before a serious injury takes place. Like a much-revamped “panic button,” today’s wireless alert systems can automatically notify staff to an incident in progress, and ring help where it’s needed.


Related story: OSHA targets SNFs with new safety program

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