For nearly 15 years, Silverado Senior Living, Inc. has provided a full continuum of care through its Assisted Living, At-Home care and Hospice service lines. Specializing in dementia care, the company’s more than 2,000 associates and caregivers serve aging U.S. populations in the states of Arizona, California, Illinois, Texas, and Utah.
Silverado Senior Living’s 21 Alzheimer’s and dementia care communities are not typical assisted living environments. Founded on the premise of changing the way the world views and treats Alzheimer’s and other memory-impairing diseases, Silverado’s guiding vision is to give life to those affected by these diseases.
Rick Barker, Silverado’s vice president of Information Technology explains the most common protocols for memory care within the industry. “The typical approach is to increase drug regimens in order to modify behavior, making residents more passive, and using physical restraint when they become difficult to control. Our communities, on the other hand, are designed to allow our residents to get their lives back. When a resident comes to one of our communities, our physicians work closely with his or her doctors to minimize the use of drugs, opting instead for redirecting, distracting, and re-educating the residents.”
The overarching Silverado mission and vision are carried out within every function of the organization, including Information Technology.
“Silverado is a mission-based company, we all commit to its mission when we’re hired,” explains Barker. “So in setting IT goals, we look first at how we can contribute to maximizing the quality of life for our residents and their families.”
An initiative to enhance communications at Silverado Senior Living resulted in the deployment of a Polycom SpectraLink wireless telephony solution that is improving resident safety, boosting communication, and contributing to a home-like environment where residents can flourish.
Improving Team Communication
The very nature of diseases that impair the memory makes swift, reliable communications an absolute necessity in assisted living facilities.
“As these types of diseases progress, disorientation becomes severe—residents often don’t know where they are and can’t remember the people around them,” says Barker. “Because of this, they will sometimes try to escape, or use physical contact to try to regain some control over their environment. All of these issues are handled by our clinical staff working together as a team, making communication a top priority.”
In the past, Silverado provided its caregivers with walkie-talkies for communication, but Barker and his team began to see how a more sophisticated solution could have a direct impact on resident care. Initial DECT and 802.11 wireless telephony rollouts met with only limited success, but the Silverado IT team continued to search for the best technology combination. What they found - Polycom® SpectraLink® wireless telephones and infrastructure solutions, combined with HipLink Software wireless paging software - is now the wireless communication gold standard within the company.
“We looked at a range of solutions and decided on the latest SpectraLink phones from Polycom because they provide the level of performance we need and are cost effective,” says Barker. “And HipLink Software really stepped up to the plate, the company was very willing to do whatever it took to help Silverado achieve its goals. The Polycom- HipLink combination is a strong solution.”
Enhancing Resident Care
The Polycom SpectraLink handsets have become an integral part of the Silverado caregivers’ jobs. At the end of each shift, the handsets are transferred and caregivers sign onto the wireless phone system and begin their work with residents. If an alarm goes off, the HipLink software generates a brief text message that is transmitted to each of the SpectraLink wireless phones, allowing a caregiver in the immediate area to quickly respond. The caregiver acknowledges resolution of the situation with the press of a button on the phone or by resetting the nurse call button in a resident’s room.
The SpectraLink phones are improving resident safety on many levels. For example, if a resident gets too close to or tries to open a door leading outside, an alarm—indicating the exact location— is sent. This enables caregivers to take immediate action to safeguard the resident. Or, if a medical emergency occurs, paramedics can be called immediately. “Before we had the SpectraLink Wi-Fi system, if a resident fell, it required a caregiver to call the reception desk and request that a 911 call be made. Now a caregiver can immediately assess the situation and call 911 directly, all of which gets calls started faster and medical assistance to the resident sooner,” says Barker.
This connection to the outside world is also helping connect residents with their families. Sometimes the best way to calm and reassure a panicked resident is to get them on the phone with a family member immediately. Before the wireless voice deployment, this meant an often arduous trip to the reception desk, and that delayed the kind of care and respect Silverado strives to provide for its residents.
“The ability to use the handsets to call family members directly was critical to our buying decision,” recounts Barker. “A walkie-talkie simply does not allow for outside phone calls.”
Residents’ families are strongly encouraged to visit as often as possible. And with the SpectraLink phone system in place, if they are in the room with a resident and need assistance, help is just the push of a button away. This is extremely important if, for example, the resident they are visiting is unable to remember them and becomes upset.
A top priority for Silverado Senior Living is to make its community environment feel like a home, rather than a hospital. Barker was able to eliminate the noise and distraction of the walkie-talkie system by implementing the SpectraLink wireless solution.
“The Polycom-HipLink solution is now Silverado Senior Living’s standard for wireless communication,” concludes Barker.