As the list of demands being placed on staff continues to grow, effective communication between staff and residents becomes the most important aspect of time management.
Although still a mainstay of residential aged care, traditional, alert-based call bells continue to have a negative impact on productivity while consuming an inordinate amount of staff time.
All call bell alerts need to be regarded as important, but current aged care resident and former registered nurse, Roger Napthine, believes that adding a cancellation button to call bells could save staff members a lot of valuable time.
“We need to keep in mind that some of the people using the bells can be a bit clumsy and, at times, confused,” shared Roger with HelloCare.
“Simply having the ability to say, ‘Oops, I didn’t mean that,’ could potentially save another person’s life.”
Roger continued, “In my particular case, my call bell has two functions, and they are both on the same fixed panel. One is the call bell, and one is the light switch. At night, it’s so easy to accidentally press the wrong button, and then you’ve called a carer away from their duties.”
He added, “A simple fix could be allowing the resident to cancel the call.”
Clearing an alert
While adding a cancellation button to a call bell may seem a straightforward solution to staff time constraints, adding this function to a resident handset does not come without added risks.
Aged care residents are often living with a variety of conditions that may inhibit their ability to operate an alert system. These issues could also potentially lead to cancelling an alarm at the point of an emergency.
Currently, the vast majority of aged care providers mandate that only approved staff members can clear alarm alerts, and according to Simon Squire, Product Manager of call bell technology experts, Ascom Australia, this approach offers assurance for both staff and residents.
“Typically, cancelling an alert on a mobile pendant could require a combination of presses or perhaps an extended press of the button, while a mounted unit may have a separate button to cancel. But often that’s just not practical for aged care,” explained Simon to HelloCare.
One aspect of alert cancellation that can also be overlooked is proof of staff attendance. If a staff member is the only person who can cancel a call bell alert, it provides assurance that the person on duty was on hand to help.
Innovating and communicating
After more than four decades as a registered nurse in both aged care and hospital settings, current aged care resident, Roger, has a unique insight from both ends of the call bell.
According to him, the ideal solution would be a call bell that would allow residents to convey the nature of their alert and receive some acknowledgement that they were heard.
“I think that actual voice communication between resident and staff would be the most important functional advantage that both parties could have,” shared Roger.
Thankfully, Ascom Australia’s range of call bell solutions boast user-friendly technology that seamlessly adapts to an aged care environment and brings voice to the bedside.
“If you can communicate directly with a resident, there is no longer any need for a cancel button. That mitigates risk and liability in the event of a mishap,” explained Simon from Ascom.
“With our call bell systems, we can put the speaker anywhere, depending on a client’s needs. So, if a staff member receives an alert on their handset, they can respond from anywhere in the facility to get an understanding of what a resident needs,” he said.
By opening the lines of verbal communication with call bell alerts, staff can prepare to meet that resident’s needs before they enter their room.
This level of forewarning also gives staff the ability to allocate the appropriate staff member to meet the needs of a resident, depending on the complexity and required urgency of a request.
“A registered nurse is an expensive resource, you don’t want this person to be the one delivering water,” said Simon.
“Something like that could be allocated to an aide or even a volunteer.”
Former nurse, Roger, echoed Simon’s sentiments.
“As someone who now lives in an aged care home, things that appear to be simple – like having two-way communication, makes a massive difference,” said Roger.
“If I feel that I’ve been acknowledged when I communicate, that makes me feel that I am valued.”