access control

5 Access Control Strategies That Minimize Risk at Long-Term Care Facilities

All types of facilities have a serious responsibility to do their best to ensure the safety and security of their visitors, employees, and customers.

However, for long-term care facilities, this responsibility has unique challenges.

Long-term-care residents may be especially vulnerable from certain threats from visitors, and failing to provide clear, safe access paths and a secure perimeter can have especially dangerous consequences.

However, you can minimize security and safety risks at long-term care facilities with better access control strategies, such as the ones detailed below.

Preventing Trips, Slips, and Falls

Nursing homes and rehab centers should already have plenty of internal strategies to boost “ambulatory safety” — the technical term for “safety while walking.”

Preventing falls requires a comprehensive effort that includes staff doing all of the following.

  • Communicating with residents about how to get around safely
  • Communicating with the medical team about potential fall risks
  • Managing residents’ medications properly and understanding how they affect ambulation
  • Understanding proper protocols for assisting patients who are at risk of falling (such as walker education and non-slip footwear)

access control

However, another factor that affects fall risk has to do with access control.

Namely, residents shouldn’t have access to any area of the facility where they could face an increased risk of falling — and those that they can access should be free of potential obstacles or hazards.

This effort can require vigilance from your maintenance staff, your front desk staff, and even your management.

Policies should be in place to do the following.

  • Immediately limit access to wet and slippery floors
  • Prevent equipment being left in throughways
  • Keep access areas, including all points of ingress and egress, well-lit and clear of obstacles
  • Check for any floor damage or wear and tear that can lead to trip hazards (for example, cracks in the sidewalk, broken floor tiles, etc.)

Obviously, these are great practices for any business, but they’re especially important for long-term care facilities and others that frequently host people with physical and cognitive limitations putting them at greater risk of falls.

Improving Parking Lot Safety

The parking lot can be easy to overlook in your safety efforts, but you certainly shouldn’t ignore it.

Plenty of injuries happen in parking lots each year, and although state laws vary, employers are generally liable for safety in their parking lots and parking garages if they’re responsible for maintaining them.

Insurance specialist Dan Killins advises the following parking lot safety tactics in the EHS Advisor Blog.

Keep it even and well lit. We just talked about slips, trips and falls inside the facility, but you should also take steps to prevent them in the parking lot. To keep your parking lot as safe as possible, you’ll need to promptly fill potholes and cracks, and work to maintain parking lot lighting so that people can see exactly where they’re going. Make sure curbs and any other steps or obstacles are marked clearly.

Clarify the traffic flow. Prevent confusion that can cause accidents by making sure people know which way to drive. As Killins advises, “Keep parking lot traffic moving in a consistent direction by installing signage and directional arrows to guide vehicles, especially near blind spots.” Make sure that signs and striping are always clear and easy to see.

Prepare for snow and ice. If you live in a region with cold winters, you need a plan to keep your facility’s parking lots and walkways clear and free of slippery ice.

Preventing Resident Elopement

Unlike other types of offices or facilities, long-term care facilities have a unique responsibility to prevent residents’ unauthorized exits.

Whether residents try to leave because they’re disoriented, because they have some kind of mental impairment, or simply because they’re upset or disgruntled, your residents can face serious risks if they leave the premises. They are vulnerable to extreme weather conditions and other injury — and your facility is liable for their safety.

Again, prevention starts with training. Your staff should be well-versed in the signs and risks of resident elopement. They should know how to handle elopement cases properly and promptly. A “missing persons protocol” for your long-term care facility can help.

But access control measures are also necessary to keep residents safe.

Long-term care facility insurance expert Caitlin Morgan advises the following tactics.

Limit access (and exit) points as much as possible. This is a best security practice for many reasons other than just elopement prevention. Making sure that all residents and visitors enter and exit through the appropriate channels is a good way to make sure you always know who is on site and that all visitors have been checked in properly.

Invest in automatic entryway locking systems and entry/exit alarms. Make it more difficult for residents to exit without being noticed by making sure that an alarm sounds when an exit-only door is used inappropriately.

Monitor access points closely. One best practice when it comes to visitor management in general is to keep the front desk monitored at all times, preferably with live staff. If you can’t be there, make it clear that visitors and residents are supposed to check in before entering the facility. (They can start checking in with a visitor management system while they wait, if you have one.) As we wrote in the post 8 Ways to Structure Your Front Desk Staff, you should always have a plan for covering the front desk when your regular staff is busy or on a break. In terms of securing other points of entry with measures besides alarms, you may consider investing in security cameras that will make it easier for you to monitor the entire facility.

Protecting Resident Privacy

Once again, resident privacy is an important issue that deserves its own internal policies and efforts. Your staff need to understand how they can respect the privacy of residents throughout the course of caring for them.

But resident privacy is also an important consideration in access control efforts. Your staff should be making a conscious effort to protect residents’ confidential and personal information from outside visitors.

Your staff should be making a conscious effort to protect residents’ confidential and personal information from outside visitors. #receptionistapp Click To Tweet

Here are just a few of the ways your long-term care facility can prioritize residents’ privacy:

  • Give residents a secure place to store their valuables or other personal effects in order to keep them safe from thieves.
  • Arrange furniture and partitions in residents’ rooms to limit the view inside to people walking through the facility.
  • Make sure residents’ records — both virtual and physical — are kept securely out of public view and under digital lock and key. (Related post: 5 Myths About Data Privacy Debunked)
  • Keep the visitor records for your residents private — not in a paper visitor log that the rest of the lobby visitors can see. (If you want to learn more about how to check visitors into your facility with a private, tablet-based visitor check-in app, click here to learn more about The Receptionist for iPad. The app can also help you proactively follow up with facility visitors, access real-time emergency evacuation lists, and much more.)

By using all of these tactics and staying aware of exactly how people come on, off, and through your property, you can improve safety and security for visitors, employees, and residents.

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