Technology: the key to safe visiting in care homes

Now that more people are allowed to visit elderly care home residents in the wake of COVID-19, how can we keep everyone safe? Stephen Cavanagh, Ascom’s senior sales consultant for long term care explains in this blog how the latest technology could be the answer. 

May 12, 2021

Now that up to two people are allowed to visit elderly care home residents in the wake of COVID-19, how can we keep everyone safe? Stephen Cavanagh, Ascom’s senior sales consultant for long term care explains how the latest technology could be the answer. 

The government’s announcement that it is allowing face to face care home visits by up to two people has come as welcome news to care home managers, families and residents alike.

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on many elderly people – not least the unquantifiable damage caused by lockdown. Evidence is growing that months of being cooped up is leading to muscle weakness, raising fears about mobility, falls and injuries. Added to that is cognitive decline, exacerbated by lack of contact with friends and relatives on the outside. Visits from family give elderly residents a reason to stay positive, and a reason to live. In short, glimpses of the outside world are central to their health, wellbeing and longevity. 

So how are care homes to achieve the government’s aim of opening safely for visits?

It’s not just vaccines that are coming to the sector’s aid. Technology is key to helping care homes become safer for all.

Immediate, safe reopening with mesh technology

The very latest mesh technology helps protect people with digital social distancing monitoring, providing an immediate framework for safe visits and admissions.

Mesh technology supports social distancing digitally by mapping the live location of every single person on premises. Care homes can create two metre virtual geozones around staff, visitors and residents and flag breaches, allowing the rule to be enforced at all times. Combining this with best practice sanitation and PPE will enable care homes to re-open for visitors and new residents.

Mesh technology creates a communications platform by connecting the smart devices on site. Staff and visitors use smart phones, and residents wear lanyards or wristbands to connect virtually, creating a platform that doesn’t rely on Wi-fi or 4G/5G.

The process starts with visitors downloading the app. They then book a time slot to visit their loved one. Upon arrival they are asked to complete a questionnaire that includes details on vaccine, symptom or antibody testing and carrier risk status. Managers can then plan and oversee every visit.

The technology, known as Ascom Mesh, is managed by an app that places social distancing information in the hands of managers. They can visualise everybody’s whereabouts in real-time via a heat map, enabling them to make informed decisions to safeguard residents and staff.

Social distancing for a safer future

The care sector will need to enforce social distancing for some time to come. Not only has Covid underlined the vulnerability of people in long term care, but it has also shown us that many further layers of protection are needed to keep them safe.  For this reason, homes will never again be able to allow unscheduled, unvetted visits. 

A data-guided vision for dignity and wellbeing in care

We all hope that COVID-19 will be consigned to the history books, but this is far from guaranteed. It could become a seasonal concern, much like flu. Technology will create a simple way for homes to keep health dangers from the outside world firmly locked out.

The last year has been filled with sadness and tragedy, but I am optimistic about the future of long term care. If vaccines are the light at the end of the tunnel, then mesh technology is the tool that care homes need to get there quicker.

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