Nov 12, 2010

Alzheimer's Patients and Security Ankle Monitors

All residents in the Memory Support Center at mom's nursing home must wear ankle monitors with a built in alarm system.

By Kerry Runyeon
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

All residents in the Memory Support Center at mom's nursing home must wear ankle monitors with a built in alarm system. This insures that in the event a resident manages to get out of the unit the alarm will go off and will alert the staff. This is a back up system to the locked doors which include a coded security locking system. The premise is good but the system is flawed.

The ankle bracelets are quite unattractive, uncomfortable, and annoying, but most importantly they are an affront to the dignity of the person who wears them. They look like a hospital bracelet with a bright blue cube on it only they go around the ankle and are worn at all times-----bathing, sleeping, and out of the unit-----24/7.

Anyone observing them would realize the person is a "patient" somewhere and would wonder what was wrong with them.

The Memory Support Center is beautiful and I am sure they were trying to make the environment as home-like as possible when drawing up the plans.

The environment does a good job at that. Making the residents wear this ugly anklet takes away from their intentions and is very noticeable when they sit down or when wearing capris in the warmer weather. Putting socks over them is difficult and the use of Ted hose would be near impossible unless you would take it off when changing the Ted hose and the only way to do that is to cut it off.  The elderly often have fluctuating swollen ankles which in itself could present a problem with this arrangement.

The other thing is you can't turn them on or off so when you take your loved one out or bring them in, unless an employee is nearby to disarm the alarm with their badge (and usually there is nobody around the doors) the alarm goes off.  The alarm is a very high pitched, ear splitting noise which really I think would  harm your hearing over time and at the least is highly annoying. Because of so many false alarms nobody comes running to see who is going in or out. The alarm often goes on for a couple of minutes before being turned off.

I do understand the need for monitoring especially those that tend to wander.  I do not understand the all inclusive policy.  Lily has never tried to leave nor would some of the residents who are wheel chair confined or on walkers and can barely make it down the hall. Why is common sense not allowed to enter the equation?

When Lily had this placed on her on arrival she would get so irritated and ask me for a scissors "to cut the damn thing off". When she would come visit she would find the scissors and cut it off.

After losing three of them the nurse manager informed me they cost around $100. I asked if I could sign a waiver so the nursing home would not be liable. However, that was not allowed. Seeing I was not getting anywhere and not wanting to take an antagonistic approach, I put my thinking cap on and came up with a workable solution.

I created an attractive bracelet from her identification bracelet she had at home and incorporated the blue cube which is the monitor.  The cube was kind of ugly but that couldn't be helped.  I told a little white lie and explained to Lily that this bracelet was from Ryan so she gladly agreed to wear it although on occasion has said that the big blue cube was rather ugly.  To the nursing home's credit they allowed her to wear the bracelet as opposed to the original ankle band.

The entire staff loved the bracelet and wanted to get the activities department to make them for the rest of the residents. I don't know that the men would like them, but maybe if they incorporated it into a watch that would work.

It would be nice if somehow a system was developed that a code could be punched in by the families to disarm the alarm when taking their loved one out. To allow this though always leaves open the risk that the family might not be careful to be sure another resident does not follow them out.

However, the way I see it with all the false alarms a resident could be long gone before the staff realized it.  Pretty unlikely, but yet again I think it unlikely a resident would follow another resident's family out without being noticed.  The other option would be to   allow some of the residents who do not wonder to be excluded.

I guess with all the lawsuits in this world risks like these are too great to allow, but that is a whole other story!

Kerry Runyeon, RN, BSN is the primary caregiver for her mother Lily. Kerry chooses to focus on the humorous aspects of her journey with Alzheimer's disease. Her blog Living in the Moment with Lilybird is a reflection of her experience. Kerry resides in Dayton, Ohio

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