Vertical Market Focus: Assisted Living & Health Monitoring--How to Secure Assisted Living Facilities

Security for assisted living facilities need to protect people and assets yet allow for certain freedom of ingress and egress


            In one facility, administrators discovered that they had been spending too much time manually processing the payroll data. Plus, they discovered that some employees were filling out timecards for their friends, which was costing them thousands of dollars each month in unwarranted wages. Biometrics puts an immediate halt to such buddy-punching. Before automatically suggesting card credentials throughout the facility, see if biometrics are being used in time and attendance. If the organization is already using biometrics for this application, it is much easier to migrate biometrics into some of the access/egress points.

Access control software: Most facilities should be able to find and implement access control software that is effective, inexpensive and easy to use. The software will not only let administrators manage access rights, but allows administrators to quickly change authorization or door status in case of emergency.

Facilities that see value in an access control system but are concerned about the cost should keep in mind that not every opening and access point in the facility must be included. Openings considered nonessential can still be protected by more conventional means. Additionally, new Web-based access control systems on the market have been created with fewer than 32 controlled openings in mind.

For instance, an inoperative door was the final breaking point for Anthony Aldretti, maintenance supervisor for the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home in Walsenburg. That’s when he called Earl Truncer, security and safety consultant for Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, who had visited with him in the past, discussing online and wireless access control systems.

            The nursing home is a 120-bed long term care facility for veterans and their spouses from the region and nearby states. Built in 1993 and adjacent to Spanish Peaks Hospital, the nursing home offers a bright, modern and comfortable atmosphere with views of the nearby mountains and lakes. It provides a special care unit for Alzheimer’s and dementia residents.

            According to Truncer, the facility has a series of security issues:

  • The facility is an “L-shaped” building with the veteran’s home on one wing and the hospital on the other. Medical and staff personnel go back and forth regularly.
  • The facility provides meals to the nearby prison. Prison personnel pick up the trays of food and later return the trays.
  • On very cold nights, the homeless are permitted to stay within specified areas of the hospital.
  • The combination hospital/nursing home has 200 employees and 20 doors that need locking.

Knowing of the facility’s present key-based system and the access control needs of the hospital/nursing home, Truncer put Aldretti in touch with Russell Bogner of Colorado State Safe & Lock in Colorado Springs. Bogner had recently installed the Schlage bright blue Web-based access control system at several other Colorado locations and Truncer felt that it would provide a solution that Aldretti would like.  

According to Bogner, the access control system is created especially for smaller facilities. Eliminating the need for special software or a dedicated PC, it would let authorized nursing home/hospital administrators access, monitor and manage their system from any computer running a standard web browser. Importantly, the cost of this system was less than that of a single panel on larger security management system solutions and the system’s plug-and-play design made configuration easy.

“Bogner was right,” emphasized Aldretti. “We had already used other systems with all the bells and whistles that we didn’t need and never used. They were just too cumbersome. Using bright blue, we upgraded from keys to proximity readers and keyfobs which our users conveniently keep on their keychains.”

Aldretti’s boss, Support Services Director Dave McGraw agreed. “We like the reliability this system provides. We wanted a system that we could count on to control access at our perimeter doors, especially for those emergency occasions that happen, including when we need to isolate an incident. It was important that we could lockdown with as few steps as possible.”

With the bright blue system, lockdown is a simple click of the mouse.

“We also wanted to keep expenses down by using whatever we already had,” added McGraw. “Although much of the facility was key-based, there were a few standalone doors being controlled electronically and being accessed with proximity keyfobs. We issue key fobs to personnel on an as-needed basis,” McGraw continued. “What is especially helpful is that now we can issue different levels of security to various individuals. Some people can access all doors; others can only access some doors. Others can only access doors at certain times of the day.”