Magazine article Security Management

Providing Unrestrained Care

Magazine article Security Management

Providing Unrestrained Care

Article excerpt

AS GERIATRIC CARE BECOMES A growing concern to Americans, technology that enhances the quality of life is becoming as important as technology that prolongs it. A new federal regulation strictly limits the use of patient restraints in hospitals and nursing homes. While this regulation improves the quality of life for patients in such institutions, it poses unique security problems for the facilities. Fortunately, electronic solutions are available.

In the past, chemical and physical restraints (straps that bind a patient to a bed or chair) have been used to protect patients from falls and from wandering off. Falling and wandering are a danger for patients and a liability concern for health care facilities.

Although these restraints have been effective, they are also controversial. In 1987, Congress passed the Omnibus Reconciliation Act, which strictly limits the use of chemical and physical restraints in health care facilities. In October 1990 that regulation went into effect. Today, protecting patients who wander must be accomplished through alternative means.

The law states that patients cannot be restricted for disciplinary reasons or for the convenience of the staff but only for a specific and valid medical reason. The staff must prove it has had no success in controlling the patients through any other means. When a physical restraint is used, it must be checked every half hour and released every two hours, and the checking and releasing must be well documented.

Electronic patient-wandering systems can solve the restraint problem. Such systems provide a safe, nonintrusive means of monitoring the location of patients in hospitals and nursing homes.

Wrist or ankle bands worn by the patients trigger an alarm as patients pass through sensors placed at the doors. The bands, or coded tags, eliminate false alarms because they work on a frequency not used by other equipment in the building. When a tag comes within range of a sensor, a microprocessor checks the code before it sounds an alarm. As the alarm sounds, the wandering patient's identity and location are revealed on the staff's control panel.

Until recently, wandering patients were a problem at Blueberry Hill Healthcare Center in Beverly, MA. The hospital had placed alarms on the emergency exit doors to alert the staff if the doors were opened. However, the hospital could not alarm the main entrance because of the heavy volume of people coming and going. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.