Aug 06, 2019

Are Traditional Call Bells In Aged Care Outdated?

While there have been a number of small improvements over the last few decades, the majority of traditional call bell systems in the aged care industry still come with their fair share of problems.

Within most aged care facilities, staff are forced to respond to call bell alerts without having any context regarding the nature of a problem, which means that they must physically visit a resident in order to understand what it is that they need, and when you consider that residents are pressing the same alert button whether they have fallen out of bed or they simply need a drink of water- it’s not hard to imagine that problems begin to arise.

Not only does this process result in aged care staff having to visit the same resident twice in order to meet their needs, in the event that there a multiple call bell alerts, it can also mean that a resident who is in dire need of assistance may be forced to wait while staff unknowingly attend someone who has a very minor request.

The majority of call bell systems in aged care are also located in a fixed position, which can present safety issues for elderly residents with good mobility. Remaining active is one of the keys to maintaining a happy and healthy life, and having an alert system that offers no protection for residents that have left their rooms does little to encourage activity.

Despite the unassuming name, a call bell is essentially a lifeline for elderly people in aged care, and eliminating some of the issues that are currently being faced by both staff and residents regarding their current call bell system has the ability to save time, which ultimately, can save lives.

Ascom Australia has spent many years assisting healthcare providers around the country with addressing the type of workflow issues that stem from inefficient call bell and alert systems, and their Managing Director, Feargal O’Farrell, sat down with HelloCare to discuss how improved technology is resulting in improved care outcomes for elderly people living in aged care.

“Every aged care environment is unique. People’s needs can change very quickly as they age, which means that a facility must be able to adapt in order to meet those needs,” said Feargal.

“The layout of every facility can also vary dramatically, which means that any call bell system or alert that involves resident safety needs should be customised to meet a facilities specific needs, but it must also be scalable in order to adapt to change.”

Recently, well respected aged care provider AnglicareSA reached out to Ascom looking for a call bell alert system that could help to address some of the issues that come with providing care to the residents in their multi-building aged care facility located in the Grange. 

The extreme size of the 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.  

“Most call bells are fixed, which obviously poses a number of issues for aged care residents who enjoy getting out and about, but part of the solution that we created for Anglicare SA involved the use of our call-bell pendants which the resident can actually wear,” said Feargal.

“Having residents wearing their call bell means that they can always have access to assistance no matter where they are in the facility, and the technology that we place inside these small devices also has the ability to let staff know exactly where that resident is. This means that they can enjoy the garden or the cafe without feeling any less protected.” 

The recent introduction of the new Aged Care Quality Standards has seen the focus shift from the traditional clinical indicators in residential aged care to the enablement of choice and independence for elderly residents. 

And well-implemented technology can make all the difference for aged care providers looking to meet the newly required levels of standard compliance.

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Capturing data and statistics has recently been earmarked as one of the most valuable assets in the aged care industry, as having the ability to understand the success of a particular working process is one of the greatest indicators of the need for change. 

“Data was definitely a big priority for AnglicareSA, because, at the end of the day, this is the evidence that tells you how happy your residents are. We can provide aged care homes with real-time data on a number of different things ranging from details on residents that can indicate trends, as well as call response times for the actual call bells,” said Feargal.

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

And while cutting response times is obviously a positive, cutting out the time it takes staff to physically speak to a resident in order to understand their reason for pressing the call bell – is definitely the biggest dilemma being faced by aged care staff. And according to Feargal, there are a number of different ways in which to combat this problem. 

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

“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 a resident’s call bell to help give staff an indication of the importance of their issue. 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.”

“The call bell might just be the most important tool that aged care staff has to ensure the safety of their residents, and in 2019, we currently have the ability to significantly improve the entire process. Investing in new technology regarding alerts is an investment in the continued safety of those that you care for.” 


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