Resolutions For Your Senior Living Community

All too often, resolutions are about the things we give up, the things we choose to do without. No wonder they never get off the ground. This year at Tel-Tron, we’ve decided to take a different approach, by giving you a few ideas on how to enhance and enrich your community and it’s residents and to help make your community an even better place to live and work this year. Here is some inspiration to get you started:

ImageGo Green: A healthier lifestyle begins with a healthier environment, and with all the tools and resources available, it is easier than ever to ensure that your community is eco-friendly. Here are a few simple solutions:

  1. Get an Energy Star check: How energy-efficient is your community? An EPA Energy Star check is the best way to know for sure. Not only is an Energy Star certification mean that your facility is eco-friendly, but it also ensures superior comfort for your residents and a reduction of up to one-third in your energy costs. It’s a win-win!
  2. Recycle Everywhere: While most community have implemented recycling programs in their main living areas, this year, make a commitment to facilitate recycling throughout your community by using divided bins in residents’ rooms or on shared hallways. Education is also important. Since seniors did not grow up recycling, many of them know very little about it. Discuss what can and can’t be recycled, using physical examples, so residents are clear on the guidelines and your program is more successful.
  3. Reduce fabric waste: Fabric waste is a little-known environmental problem in the United States. Assist your residents in getting rid of unwanted clothing and linens with a centrally located donation bin. Donate these items to a shelter or a local thrift shop. Many of these places donate unwanted items to fabric recycling facilities, which turn them into cleaning rags, brushes, etc.

Make Connections: Fostering a sense of community is the key to having happy, fulfilled residents, and achieving it is easier than you think. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Reach out to Residents: Most communities have feedback systems in place, but many residents are hesitant to publicly voice their suggestions, so be sure that you offer a suggestion box of another method for residents to anonymously give their feedback.
  2. Capitalize on Skills: Create a questionnaire to uncover the hidden talents and abilities of your residents, and ask those that are able to host programs around these skills. From woodworking, knitting, and scrapbooking to more active pursuits like yoga and dance, these offer a great way to make sure residents feel relevant and connected.
  3. Help Out: Most people feel a great sense of satisfaction and usefulness by helping others, so find a way to band together for a good cause, from organizing a food drive to stitching blankets for children at homeless shelters.Image

Resolve to Do Better: When residents stay healthy, the entire community thrives. Here are suggestions to help your residents stay on track:

  1. Host a Resolutions Party: Residents can pick a buddy to help them stay on track and offer feedback on ways that the community can help, perhaps by providing healthier meal options or more opportunities for exercise.
  2. Encourage residents to take up one new activity in 2014 that engages their mind, and create loosely organized clubs around these activities. Book clubs, language learning, or puzzles all offer great opportunities for mental exercise.
  3. Schedule a Wellness Check: Offer a free wellness check to residents from a trusted healthcare provider, and use the results to formulate or further develop resolutions.

For more information on how you can improve safety and security for your residents in 2014, visit www.tel-tron.com for details on our complete and customizable Emergency Call System solutions for your community.

The Value of Independence in Senior Living

A few years ago, I read an article comparing American values to the values in some developing countries. The writer emphasized that autonomy and independence are as integral to American culture as the proverbial baseball and apple pie. In some countries, particularly developing nations, interdependence is emphasized, but in the United States, our goal as parents is to raise kids who can survive, and thrive, without us. A couple of years ago, I found that, at virtually the same time, both of my daughters went through tricky transitions on the road to independence. One wanted to do everything herself, but couldn’t. The other could do most things for herself, but wouldn’t. It was a frustrating phase, but in retrospect, it taught me a lot about the role of independence in senior living.

TiedShoesSetting Realistic Expectations

The key to successfully maintaining independence in an assisted living facility is to set realistic expectations. Determining your residents’ abilities and capabilities is the first step. In assisted and independent living facilities, most residents can successfully handle the following tasks.

  • Using the restroom
  • Coming and going at will
  • Preparing simple meals and snacks
  • Selecting their own television shows, reading material, etc.
  • Brushing their teeth, showering, and other basic grooming skills

A well-meaning caregiver who steps in and intercepts when help is not required brushes aside a lifetime of independence, a process that can slowly erode the resident’s sense of self-esteem and autonomy.  There are many advantages to fostering independence in seniors, including emotional, psychological, and physical benefits, and a more independent group of residents lightens the load of caregivers, allowing them to focus on the residents’ who truly require help.

Utilizing Technology

Resident Check-In

Technology can help seniors maintain their independence or sense of independence for much longer. Technology such as resident Check-In, automated resident reminders, and wearable safety devices can provide the independence that seniors desire.

If you’re looking to give your residents the gift of independence, without compromising life safety or wellness, contact us at Tel-Tron.

Tel-Tron – An Untapped Referral Source

Referrals Network Illustration

Having been a senior living operator for the past 20 years, I know that vendors have an impact on your business. But I really never realized how significant that relationship could be until this month.

Each month, Tel-Tron has a company lunch with all of our employees, including those who are not in the field with customers. It is a great opportunity to spend time with your colleagues and learn what is happening within the company. This month at our lunch, our CEO asked for a showing of hands on who had ever been asked to recommend a senior living community based on the fact that they worked at Tel-Tron. I was surprised at how many hands were raised – I think most operators would be. Our Technical Support, Finance, Admin, Sales, and Engineering – almost every operating department at Tel-Tron had someone who had been asked to recommend a community.

Being an operator, naturally I have been asked that question countless times, but I hadn’t given much thought to vendors being asked that. Having been an end-user of Tel-Tron’s products and services for many years, it had never occurred to me to utilize the company relationship to gain referrals.

Our interactions and visits across the country at the corporate level include Chief Officers, Clinicians, Procurement, Asset Managers, Accountants, Regional and Divisional Operations, and Property Management. At the community level, we interact daily with Maintenance, Executive Directors, Business Office Managers, Concierge, Nurses, Med-Techs, and Caregivers. Tel-Tron equipment is installed in over 1,000 communities across the country and Tel-Tron employees walk into several hundred communities per year.

By the end of the meeting, I realized that all of our employees here at Tel-Tron are in the senior housing business and have a great ability to impact day-to-day operations, including increasing prospects knowledge of your community, and yes, REFERRALS!

So the next time you’re hosting an event at your community, invite your Tel-Tron representative. If you have new information on products or services you are offering, don’t hesitate to share it with us. That way, we can truly be the partner we set out to be, helping you build a better business.

VERY Key Metrics – Ignore At Your Own Peril

Tel-Tron powers the systems technology at roughly 1,000 retirement communities, improving the quality of life for over 100,000 residents. We work with over 200 senior living clients and have a very long-term understanding of the good, bad and ugly of senior housing management.  I’ve been tempted to start a blog series on things I would do if I owned a senior living company or community.   Given the challenges we’ve helped folks through this week,  that temptation is growing harder and harder to resist.

Let’s consider this post the prologue to that series, which will provide a behind-the-scenes, outsider’s, perspective on some very fundamental changes senior living executives could implement that would change everything for them.  Here is an example.

Visual Management of Staff Response to Resident Emergencies

Here are a few snapshots from a daily dashboard – available to any Tel-Tron user – from Auditrak.com.  Check out these statistics and see if you agree with my recommendations.  This is a real-life 80 unit assisted living community, with a fairly aged population.  The staffing levels are similar to sister communities of similar size, but the needs here are apparently greater than the staff can handle effectively without intervention.

Take a look at the activity level for just the last 24 hours on this real-life emergency call system.  What we see is a disaster. If I were the Executive Director of this community, this would have my undivided attention.  What I see is that in the last 24 hours, there have been 74 emergency calls, most of which originated from a resident pushing their wireless necklace pendant.  The balance were from pull cords in the bedroom, with only a small number of alarms originating from a pull station in the bathroom.

Daily Activity Snapshot

THE AVERAGE RESPONSE TIME IS 42 MINUTES!!!!  The longest alarm took 6 hours.  One has to assume that the 6 hour alarm has some explanation, but the average is 42 minutes.  In fact, a resident living at this community would be far better served by calling 911, rather than using the emergency call system installed in the community.  What, I ask you, other than poor training, indifference, lack of understanding could cause the people responsible for caring for these residents to think this average is acceptable.

Let’s look at a Chart 2, also for the last 24 hours, which will show us the call distribution by hour for the last 24 hours.  What we see is that the average number of calls per hour is approximately 4.  There appears to be a peak before the dinner hour, and again between 10pm and midnight.  Even still, these peaks only represent 7-9 calls an hour.  Not a very heavy workload by any measure.

Chart 2

Next, let’s take a look at some performance gauges that this community has set for itself, using their own targets, in the three areas relative to staff response.

Performance Gauges

We already discussed the average response time.  Notice their own internal target is 5 minutes, with 8 minutes being allowed.  The longest response time has been discussed already, too.  The last metric, % of responses outside their target threshold, 72%.  An overwhelming majority of their resident emergencies are taking staff longer than 5 minutes to respond.  I know.  Not every alarm is an emergency.   However, there is no way to know the real alarms from the non-emergency alarms until staff responds.  It is imperative to treat each alarm as the real thing, or else when there is a real alarm it will be a disaster.  Worse yet, an avoidable one brought on by complacency.

Last chart.  This one is about profitability, which may make hiring more (or better) staff a reality for this community.  This is a chart that shows the top users of the emergency call system.  Take a look.

Frequent Users (and abusers)

Remember, there were 74 emergency calls in the last 24 hours.  These 7 residents alone accounted for 71% of the calls placed over that period.  They should be paying more than others.  Whoever is in room 218, if this is continuous over time, should be paying even more than the other 6.  They are using the emergency call system 3X as often as the person who is number 3 on the list.  Assuming each alarm takes 5-10 minutes of staff time, this single resident is getting 1-3 hours of staff time  – daily – that other residents aren’t receiving.  I’d charge for that somehow.

Surely there are a number of factors that go into determining how much a resident pays for assisted living services.  The amount of staff time consumed by excessive use of the call system should be among them.

These are just a few examples of the kind of data that is available on the Auditrak.com service.  These 4 charts are on a daily dashboard that is emailed to executive directors (if they request it), making review of the numbers almost effortless.  Failing to review these numbers – which is apparently the case at this community – results in poor performance across the board.  My guess is that their resident surveys aren’t that great either.

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. “

“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. “

Ralph Waldo Emerson

turn·key / ˈtərnˌkē/• n. (pl. -keys) archaic a jailer.• adj. of or involving the provision of a complete product or service that is ready for immediate use.

We’re not big on talk here at Tel-Tron, we sell turnkey solutions and actually provide the same.  Every project that Tel-Tron partners in embodies the idea that the whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts.  Tel-Tron has been the leading manufacturer of emergency call systems for decades but we don’t stop participating at the end of the production line.  Tel-Tron provides the highest quality and most consistent turnkey solutions because we ensure that the equipment we took so much care to design and manufacture actually gets implemented in the way it was designed.  Tel-Tron project managers, trainers and support staff are with your team from the moment you buy the system to ensure that shortcuts aren’t taken, steps aren’t missed and that you always get the same consistent quality that allows you to concentrate on providing the best care to your residents.

I’m sure many of you have been involved in projects where fingers get pointed, excuses are made and it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who assumes responsibility for anything, the Tel-Tron turnkey solution for emergency call systems couldn’t be more different.  Many of our competitors use dealers, electricians, general contractors or maybe even the subcontractor doing the fire alarm system to act as the responsible entity for their emergency call system needs.  That subcontractor may then subcontract the job out to someone else when they get busy installing fire alarms.  The end result is layers of incompetence.  Tel-Tron project managers only manage projects that include Tel-Tron emergency call systems, they test every device, they ensure your staff is properly trained; they coordinate integrations with other vendors and are at your community ensuring that the transition to your new system is as seamless and unobtrusive as possible.

Our project management team ensures that everything from system design drawings, pre-requisite installation requirements, training, reporting and every other aspect of the system installation and operation are all handled by the same team of experts that are always accountable to you.  We’ll provide you with updates, project schedules, integration documentation and even coordinate the meetings with any other technical partners that need to be involved.  With decades of experience, industry certifications and an ownership mentality regarding your investment there is no need to look any further than your team at Tel-Tron.

Put us to the test..  Let us know what’s important to you, how you wish it worked, or just paint us a picture of the destination and then turn us loose to ensure your vision gets fulfilled.  We let our actions do our talking and can’t wait to show you how different things can be when Tel-Tron provides a true turn-key solution for your senior living community emergency notification needs and more.  Look for our blog next month on the advantage of Tel-Tron’s distributed regional presence and how we leverage those resources to manage your installation with Tel-Tron factory certified project managers for less than many of our bloated competitors while still providing services they can’t or won’t.

Enough Already. The PC has to go!

Dig hole in sand....Insert head!

All you have to do is read words in this picture, which was taken by one of our salespeople when touring a community that just installed a new emergency call system from a competitor.  WOW!  I cannot believe that someone would actually write that memo – clearly aware of the implications of not obeying – and think that just writing a note makes everything OK.

IT’S NOT OK!   You are tasked with making sure that a resident’s call for help gets answered.  And for lots of reasons, including this one, a personal computer is a completely inappropriate engine for an nurse call system.  In case you can’t read the picture, here is what it says.

“Please do not use this computer to go onto the internet.  This computer runs our nurse call system and is vitally important.  Thanks, Jane.”

Jane – Rather than writing a memo, you should have thrown that system out and replaced it with one that is not computer based.  Can any of you think of a single system that is a life safety device that runs on a Windows computer?  Please leave a comment to this post if you can.

Defibrillators? No.  Airplane Avionics?  No.  Dialysis Equipment? No.  Automobile Electronics?  No.

When you hear about someone who is on “life support,” do you think it would be wise to have that equipment run by a Windows computer?  No way.  So why is it OK to put the lives of senior living residents in the temperamental control of a Windows personal computer?  Short answer….It isn’t!  They freeze up.  They need rebooting.  Software needs updating.  They aren’t battery backed up for longer than a few minutes.  Really the list is endless.

Staff can close the program.  Staff can turn them off (on purpose, or on accident).  And, as in the case captured in this picture, staff can browse the internet while calls for help go unanswered.  It simply isn’t necessary.

On an enterprise quality nurse call system, the main servers, switches, routers and gateways use embedded systems, industrial microcontrollers, sophisticated power supplies, elaborate supervision and battery back-up methodologies.  There are design tolerances measured in sub-1% range.  User GUIs are browser based and access data on the system, but do not control the system.  Visit Auditrak.com, for an example of a killer call system GUI that resides in the cloud.

As I looked at the picture in the beginning of this article, I was so frustrated at the lack of seriousness with which Jane took her role as caregiver.  In fairness, Jane probably did not select that system.  Someone at her corporate office, who doesn’t have to respond to an emergency call – ever – probably picked it as a result of their beauraucratic purchasing system.  Still…the kind of compromise and accommodation Jane is forced into is simply not necessary.  There are other options.

Wireless Network….Heal Thy Self!

Every time I hear someone say “wireless emergency call systems are pretty much all the same” it makes my want to pull my hair out.  While it is true that many systems have a similar mission, there are very few similarities in how the mission gets

Click here for a tutorial

 accomplished.  Here is a HUGE, IMPORTANT, SIGNIFICANT, FUNDAMENTAL, MEANINGFUL  example.  Enough emphasis?

On most wireless networks used for emergency call systems, if one access point (transceiver) fails, YOU LOSE EVERY OTHER RECEIVER DOWN LINE.  That’s because signals “hop” from one transceiver to the next all the way back to the computer.  Any break in the chain and the call for help goes unanswered.  GOOD ENOUGH for email, surfing the web, etc.  BAD IDEA when the data being transmitted is a person’s call for help.

That is why Tel-Tron never designed an emergency call system using the point-to-point wireless networking scheme described above.  In 2008, we released our version of a wireless network using what is called a “Self Healing, Wireless Mesh Network.” Translation:  If any access point fails, the downline access points can automatically reroute.  The network self-heals.  And, since all Tel-Tron systems are fully supervised, the system will alarm and display which access point has failed.  As of this writing, no other company is offering this level of wireless network service.  (No other company designs and manufactures their own wireless products…..but that is a post for another time.)  For a neat flash based tutorial on this topic, please click here.

Even the chip manufacturer was impressed, and published a “Customer Success Story” on our implementation. Check it out.

I suppose a rough analogy is the difference between run-flat tires and standard tires.  With a standard tire, if you get a flat your trip is over until you change the tire.  With a run-flat tire, if you get a flat, you are notified, but your trip is uninterrupted.  That kind of safety and redundancy seems like a great idea if you were a woman driving alone at night through a sketchy part of town on your way home.  Or, if you were a senior living resident who was counting on your call for help getting answered.

There are hundreds of differences like this between wireless nurse call system providers.  So, no, emergency call systems are not all “pretty much the same.”

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