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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Ru! Ru! Ru! Ru! ..... alarmed by the noise? [ambient care]

Working in nursing home liaison I am a regular visitor to various homes in my patch.

As I respond to referrals inevitably I spend several minutes waiting to see residents, relatives and staff. At this point I can take in the ambience of the home and all too frequently what stands out is the home's call system.

Many are acutely effective.

Even though I am not there for long - 30-60 minutes, the volume, tone and the overall quality of some of these systems can be grossly irritating. Due to the care needs of the resident population the alarm calls are also a constant. This is not just my audiological experience, but one shared with students on placement with me.

Attracting the attention of staff is crucial. Caring staff do want to know who, where and when someone needs assistance. Ironically, sometimes that annoying, intrusive alarm call is supported with a plaintive shout for "someone!". As ever there are many ways to define person centred care. In response to the alarm's screech, scream and shrill the staff head to the panel and seek direction to Room 3 or 7.

If care is personalised then whatever happened to our signature tunes? Did this individual play a musical instrument? Gleaned from their life history record this might at least include Jo's musical favourites? It's true that existing alarms are anonymous, and so confidentiality is preserved. Meanwhile though peace, well-being and staff retention rates(?) are lined up against the walls and reverberated, rev erbe rat ed, re ve r be ra te d ... ...

Of course, at some remote future time I might embarrass myself as I press the red button and the Thunderbirds March rings out down the corridor, around a left, a right corner to light a panel.

Fellow residents and visitors might be given to say "Gee, there goes Alan Tracy needing help again!" Maybe by then the robots will have it sorted: the latest in-situ care units will save the day and people's ears.

Seriously though: designers, owners and managers of homes must consider the acoustic architecture of the care environment; or are they also anticipating a rise in the average age of employees with a consequent impact on the hearing acuity of employees? As to the quality of life of the residents go figure: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

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