Oct 16, 2019

How Is Technology Improving Aged Care?

Traditionally, the terms ‘aged care’ and ‘new-technology’ are not exactly synonymous with each other, but in recent times we have seen a number of examples of aged care facilities that improved the lives of their elderly residents by embracing some of the newer and more advanced options that are available in this day and age.

Administrative systems that have traditionally been paper-based are now benefiting from the improved security and efficiency being provided by automation.

Providers that previously shied away from feedback are discovering that data is key to driving positive change, and VR-headsets have the ability to take residents on a virtual overseas tour from the comfort of their facility or give potential staff an idea of the potential issues that people living with dementia can face.

Technology will never be able to replace the human element of care, but advancements that improve process efficiency within an aged care facility can result in staff having more time to be able to spend with their residents.

This has the ability to improve safety and help to stave off issues like depression that stem from prolonged periods of social isolation.

But even though there has been significant progress made in terms of aged care providers adopting new technology, there is one particular area that is well and truly in need of an overhaul.

At present, the bulk of call-bell systems found in residential aged care facilities have not been upgraded in over a decade, which is concerning given the role that they play in providing safety to elderly residents.

The vast majority of aged care staff are responding to call-bell alerts without having any idea of the nature or urgency of the alert that they are responding to, which has the potential to become a major safety issue when staff have multiple alerts that require a response.

Residents are often pressing the same call-bell regardless of whether they are in need of a drink, or whether they require emergency assistance – and staff are forced to physically visit a resident in order to understand what the issue might be.

And when you consider the multitude of options that people have to communicate in 2019, having an alert system that requires staff to make a minimum of two trips in order to respond to one resident alert seems nothing short of archaic.

Recently, well respected aged care provider AnglicareSA set out to find a call-bell system that would be well suited to cater to the residents living in their multi-building aged care facility located in the Grange.

The extreme size of the Grange facility posed a number of problems for staff looking to respond to resident call bell alerts, but AnglicareSA were adamant that they wanted a solution that would still promote the mobility of their residents while maximising safety.

Healthcare solution experts  Ascom Australia were tasked with creating a tailored call bell solution that would address all the specific needs of their facility as well as the common issues that other facilities still face. 

Ascom Australia’s Managing Director, Feargal O’Farrell, sat down with HelloCare and discussed how advances in technology have allowed them to create a call bell solution that increases safety while simultaneously promoting the mobility and independence of elderly residents.

“Mobility really is the essence of independence, and having the ability to move and remain active is crucial in the latter stage of a person’s life. There are a number of mental and physical factors that can inhibit a person’s independence, and one of those issues can be the simple fact that they may not feel safe,” said Feargal.


“Most call bells are fixed, which means that a lot of residents only have the ability to ask for assistance when they are in their rooms, which is why in the case of the Grange facility, the first priority was ensuring that residents have the ability to call for assistance anywhere within the entire grounds of the facility.”

“Residents have pendants that they can wear as a watch or have attached to a necklace which are simple to use, and one press of the button can alert staff to their exact location whether they are in another resident’s room or outside in a garden area.”

Response times have long been a significant issue for conventional call bell systems, but the system that Ascom created for Anglicare SA dramatically cut the time in which it takes for nurses to receive notification of an alert.

Aged care residents can face a number of physical and mental challenges that can inhibit their ability to communicate effectively, which is why creating a call bell system that can provide staff with context regarding the nature of an alert requires such a flexible and nuanced approach.  

“Understanding what a person wants before going to visit them automatically cuts the time it would normally take to meet that person’s needs in half. And the best way for residents to communicate these needs is by simply talking,” said Feargal.

“We provide a number of different options that allow residents to communicate their needs with staff. There can be a fixed system in a resident’s room that they can speak into, and the pendant that residents wear can also identify when they are in another area of the facility and open up communication on the speaker that is closest to them.”

“We also have the ability to configure the button on the residents’ call bell to help with special requirements. Holding the button for a small amount of time can indicate an emergency, while a double-tap of the button may indicate the need for refreshment or small assistance.”

Data has fast become one of the most valuable commodities in the aged care sector, due to its ability to identify the effectiveness of the processes being used in the workplace, and transitioning from paper-based methods through to digitised formats allow aged care providers to gain this insight in real-time.  

Accessing this type of information can allow an aged care provider to identify possible trends within a facility, which in turn, allows a provider to adjust to the ever-changing needs of their elderly residents. 

“Having tangible evidence regarding the success of a particular workplace system is invaluable because, without it, you are really relying on hearsay,” said Feargal.

“Data was definitely a big priority for AnglicareSA, because, and we provided them with a dashboard that relays real-time data regarding the usage of their call bell system, and I’m proud to say that analysis of their data shows that response times have been dramatically reduced,” said Feargal.  

“Knowing exactly where you stand with what you’re doing, is the best way to identify room for improvement and drive positive change. And at the end of the day, this all equates to safer and happier elderly people.” 

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