Elderly patients with cognitive problems tend to wander, which is perhaps the biggest concern for any caregiver. If your elderly loved one suffers from Down syndrome, dementia, Alzheimer’s, or are recovering from a head injury, they are at the risk of wandering.
It can be quite overwhelming for any caregiver if they have to stay up at night to make sure that they don’t walk out of the house. The anxiety is compounded if you’re not living with your loved one. Whatever the case may be, a reliable alert system dedicated to monitoring them every second of the day can bring you much-needed peace of mind.
And that’s precisely what anti-wandering door alarm systems offer. They ensure that the patient’s safety by acting as a second set of eyes for you. The way they work is by alerting you, as soon as your loved one tries to exit the door. You won’t need servicemen to install them for you because you can install most of these alarms yourself.
That said, there are quite a few different types of door alarms available, and some of them will suit your unique requirements and budget better. Others, not so much. They can be as simple as string alarms, or as advanced as IR-based systems.
Although tracking your loved one who’s suffering from dementia and tends to wander is absolutely essential, but GPS tracking should be considered as a last resort because as soon as they walk out of the house, they’re at a risk. In order to keep them from endangering themselves, you need to prevent wandering in the first place.
However, realistically speaking, you cannot keep an eye on them 24/7 because as a caregiver, you have other duties to attend to. And that’s where door exit alarms come in. They monitor your loved ones and provide you with peace of mind.
But before you go shopping for a door/window exit alarm system, certain factors require your attention. We’ll go over them briefly in this section.
Who can benefit from a door exit alarm?
As mentioned above, patients who are the risk of eloping or if they wander and get lost trying to find their way can benefit immensely from a door exit alarm. They’re also invaluable if your loved one needs assistance with everyday tasks, such as going to the bathroom. As soon as they walk in the bathroom door, an alarm will go off, notifying you that your loved one is in the need of assistance.
Which type of alarm should I pick?
There are various kinds of door alarms available, each with their unique pros and cons. Try and weigh them before you decide on the type.
The most basic kind of door alarms would be a pull string alarm. As the name suggests, the alarm is installed on the door frame and a string attached to it. As soon as the door is opened, the string is tugged which triggers the alarm. It employs a magnetic mechanism to turn the alarm on and off.
A passive infrared alarm features a more advanced design. Instead of a string, it relies on a sensor field or an invisible curtain to sound the alarm. As soon as the field is broken (that is, anyone walks close to the door), the sensor sends out an alert.
Last but not least, we have floor sensor alarms. These sensors are essentially floor pads combined with a magnetic lock.
Test the system
Whichever strategy you decide to employ, it’s of utmost importance that you test the system before you start relying on it. That doesn’t just mean when you first install the exit alarm system, you also need to check that the system is working like it should, when you replace the batteries. If you pick a wireless IR system, ensure that the range you selected is triggering the alarm like it’s supposed to.
Read on, as we breakdown some of the best door alarm systems available in the market today, as well as a handy guide to help you make the best purchase possible.
Installing and using this anti-wandering system from Smart Caregiver is a no-brainer. It is mounted next to an exit point or as a doorway. The second component – the wristband, is worn on the patient’s wrist, and as soon as the wrist comes in the proximity of the plugged-in unit, you get a visual as well as an auditory alert.
This range, however, can be set by the user. Out of the box, the transmitter is set to sound the alarm when the person being monitored comes closer than 15 feet. You can set the transmitter to anywhere between 8 and 14. If you’d rather not listen to the alarm every time your loved one comes in close contact with the door, you can install contact switches, which will limit the alerts to only when the door is opened.
You also get the option to remotely receive alerts, thanks to the Smart Caregiver pager which this wireless transmitter can connect to, as long as you’re within 150-300 feet of the unit. The alarm is ideal for home-use but not designed for use in facilities.
A caveat though, you will need to replace the wristband transmitter every 6 months. You receive a few replacement wrist straps with the package, but not replacement strips. For the single door monitoring system, you get a one-year manufacturer’s warranty as well.
Next up, we have another twin-alarm system from AliMed. This system works with a door sensor instead of a depending on a wristband to tell when the patient is trying to exit the room unattended. The sensor is mounted on either side of the doorpost, and it communicates with a wireless receiver to sound the alarm.
The detector picks up the signal if the patient comes as close as 15 feet of the detector, and transmits that signal to the receiver which gives you an alert.
This unit is powered by a 9V battery and the receiver is operated by 3 AA batteries but doesn’t come with any volume controls. You’ll be notified when a unit in the system is running critically low on battery, by the sound of a beeping alarm.
And while the manufacturer claims the sound is a gentle chime, the sound itself is jarring and loud. Loud enough to be disturbing to your loved one, and other residents as well. Same as the aforementioned product, this alarm system isn’t designed for facilities. Said another way, the 120 ft range is drastically affected by the construction of such facilities.
That being said, there are three different presets you can choose from, namely: siren, melody, and chime. Each preset triggers the alarm for a different duration. The chime, for instance, only sounds for less than 2 seconds, while the siren can go off for as long as 60. If you’d like to reset the alarm before it completes its duration, you can use the power button on the side of the receiver.
If you’re looking for a system which can alert you by means other than auditory or visual, this wireless system from Safeguard just might be it. The monitor system works with two parts – a battery-powered receiver and a battery-operated door-mounted transmitter. It has a generous range of almost 100 feet and the receiver itself can be clipped on to the user’s belt or even waistband.
The system only sounds the alarm as long as the door is open, and is turned off as soon as the door is closed, so you won’t have to reset the alarm every time it goes off. The receiver requires a 9 V battery, while the sensor is operated by a 12V battery – which can be difficult to come by. A single receiver can be hooked up to three monitors, but bear in mind that the manufacturer does not sell the components separately.
As for the alerts, the system makes a high-pitched beeping sound or it can be set to vibrate. It can be mounted on a window as well so that whenever the patient opens it, the monitor notifies you. If you decide to use the vibration alerts, make sure to test its sensitivity before you employ it. Another caveat, there are no volume controls on this unit, and the high-pitched beeping can get jarring for some.
The detector is easily installed without the need for any tools since it uses an adhesive strip to attach itself to the given surface. It’s also one of the affordable options available, so if you’re shopping on a tight budget, this product is perhaps the ideal pick.
Looking for a complete solution for wandering as well as fall prevention? If so, this package from Secure should be on your shortlist. This system can be the all-encompassing patient alert system. You’re looking at a wireless pager, which can connect to several different units: Bed exit alarm, Door or window-mounted alarm, a nurse call button, and finally a motion detector.
But this system isn’t just extensive, it is also fairly customizable – more than most available systems at least. For instance, you can buy whichever component or components you’ll need to pair with the wireless pager.
A single pager can connect to as much as 4 motion detectors, 4 call buttons, and 4 bed exit alarms, which makes this unit perfect for use in facilities. There are multiple presets available for alerts as well.
You can pick from vibrate or sound only, or a combination of both. You can also tweak it further by configuring each unit to make a unique sound, so it’s easier to tell them apart. The monitoring range is exceptional as it can operate over a distance of up to 500 feet.
The pager and monitoring components are batter-operated and you get a one-year manufacturer’s warranty on both units.
If your loved one is averse to wearing transmitter wristbands, a motion sensor mounted on the doorway might be the only plausible solution. This motion sensor from Smart Caregiver is portable and can be placed anywhere – the doorway, the window, or even next to the patient’s bed.
It’s ridiculously easy to set up and comes with an impressive monitoring range of 300 feet. If you wish to mount it on a wall, you get the accessories included the package. The way it works is that it casts a sensor field or an invisible curtain, and as soon as that curtain is disrupted, it sends a wireless signal to the receiver. In other words, there’s no noise inside the patient’s room, and the alert is sent to the caregiver thanks to the remote receiver.
Unlike most exit alarms you’ll find on the market, this unit features adjustable volume controls. Depending on your preference, you can choose from low, medium, and high settings. Both units are battery-operated, but they can be powered by an AC adapter as well. The motion sensor uses a set of 3 AA batteries, while the cordless monitor makes use of 3 C batteries.
In addition to both these units, you also receive a set of 10 audiowipes and a microfiber cloth for cleaning purposes.
The fear that your loved may endanger themselves if they wander or lose their way back to the home or facility can be a nightmare. But thanks to modern technology solutions, keeping your loved ones safe is easier now more than ever. Although the products included in the breakdown should suit the needs of most of our readers, on the off chance that they don’t, you can consult the buyer’s guide to pick one yourself.