Chair and Bed Alarms In Nursing Homes: Why?

For the uninitiated who wonder what this is all about, here is a quick explanation:

Not all alarms are equally important. Critical alarms, such as those on ventilators and smoke detectors are essential. Likewise, alarms on intravenous pumps and exit doors are often necessary. But, what about bed and chair alarms, also known as “personal alarms”?

Prior to the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA ’87, signed into law by my hero, President Reagan), the use of physical and chemical restraints in long-term care facilities was widespread. Following OBRA ’87’s focus on quality of care and enhanced enforcement actions, the use of restraints diminished while the use of bed and chair alarms grew exponentially. The primary purpose of bed and chair alarms is to alert staff to a potential fall when a resident attempts to get out of bed or up from a chair. Bed and chair alarms are typically pressure sensitive devices placed in beds, chair pads and wheelchair seats that respond to changes in pressure with a warning signal. Other alarms are wearable or can be attached to a resident’s clothing, programmed to activate when the person attempts to move a certain way or beyond a certain distance.

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