Care homes have a clear responsibility to keep their residents, staff and visitors safe. However, they face a unique set of challenges which make this remit complicated, difficult and potentially expensive.

What challenges do care homes face when it comes to protecting its people?

Care homes can often be spread over a larger area. There may be multiple ways in and out of the building. This is essential for fire safety and allowing residents access to outside space, but also presents multiple vulnerabilities for intruders to expose. With large amounts of expensive equipment and medication on site, care homes can represent a desirable target for unscrupulous thieves.

Many of the residents within a care home will be particularly vulnerable. Due to their age or medical conditions, it’s not unusual for slips, falls or medical emergencies to occur. A swift response to such incidents is absolutely critical. Some conditions, such as dementia, can increase the risk of unpredictable, and sometimes violent, behaviour which can threaten residents, visitors and staff alike.

There is a strong desire to maintain an “open door” policy within care homes. The aim is to achieve a good standard of living which feels as close to “home” as possible, rather than having restrictions in place which make the environment feel more akin to a hospital or facility. Visitors are often encouraged to come and go, visiting their loved one when they like. However, this can be difficult to monitor.

The number of professional visitors – GPs, hairdressers, entertainers – as well as large proportions of temporary or bank care staff also means there are new faces in and out of the building with some regularity. Some of these people may not be fully aware of individual care needs or personalities, with the potential to cause accidental upset. Some will not be equipped with the skills needed to deal with an unexpected situation in such a specific setting.

There are added challenges too when residents are taken on day trips, away from the equipment and backup that the care home itself will have available. Is it possible for the home’s security measures to extend to cover remote visits?

What security options are there for care homes?

One of the main challenges for care homes when assessing security options is striking the right balance between ensuring safety whilst maintaining the freedom of residents and visitors. Options include:

Access control systems – restricting access to the home, or certain areas within in using a swipe card system, for example.

Visitor logging – from a simple paper-based system, to a PC-based log which takes photographs of visitors.

CCTV – recording the outside of the building, with the option to also mount cameras internally.

Panic buttons – with options for fixed, PC-based or app-based for staff and visitors to raise an alarm when they need help or backup.

ANPR – to capture the number plates of all visitors. Visitors could be asked to pre-register so automated access is only allowed for recognised vehicles.

Intruder alarms – particularly for doors which are designed for emergency access only and for protecting the setting at night.

Perimeter protection – to prevent unauthorised access to the setting by those with criminal intent.

There are pros and cons to all of these options. The downside of options like CCTV and access control systems, for example, is that they may feel intrusive to residents and visitors. Any alarm system which relies on raising an alert by creating loud noises or obvious visual cues runs the risk of unnecessarily upsetting a wider group of residents, causing a situation to escalate rather than helping to control it. And some of these options may be prohibitively expensive, particularly for homes with limited budgets.

Ultimately, an effective security strategy is likely to include a combination of measures whose potential impacts, both positive and negative, will need to be assessed on a case by case basis.

Why care homes are turning to our Little Green Button

We mentioned panic buttons as one of the options above with good reason. We’ve had more and more care homes embrace Little Green Button as an effective part of their security plan.

It offers a customisable solution that can be tailored to each facility. The interface is very intuitive, and the network can be expanded simply so temporary staff can add the app to their mobiles, enabling them to quickly summon an extra pair of hands if needed with minimal fuss and no training. There’s no big noise, it just provides the reassurance that should there be a medical emergency, some unsettling behaviour or any concern over a suspicious guest, backup can be called discreetly. It also works off-site, so those remote visits are covered too.

If you’re a care home owner looking to upgrade your current security system, our team is on hand to answer any of your questions and give you a demo of our panic button software.