How a Newly Opened Community is Doing Senior Living Tech

The 21st Century Senior Living Community is a series brought to you by CDW, a provider of technology solutions and services focused exclusively on serving the healthcare marketplace. The series takes a clear-eyed look at how leading providers and their partners are creating the next generation of senior living communities by raising the bar on services, design, and technology.

When technology is more flash than substance, it falls flat, no matter the user.

Chicago-based senior living provider Pathway to Living knows this, and that’s why it’s implementing proven, well-established technology in its newest communities—and it’s realistic about the technology’s limitations.


Previously known as Pathway Senior Living, the provider currently operates 24 communities across Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Its newest community—Grandbrier—opened in Prospect Heights, Illinois, in May.

The community has independent living, assisted living and memory care units, all of which have varying levels of safeguards and features to meet residents’ needs.

“We’ve incorporated technologies that help us better serve our residents and ensure safety and quality care for each of them,” Diane Reier, Grandbrier’s lifestyle specialist, told Senior Housing News. “Residents’ family members are often the ones that choose the community and these tools let them know that their loved one is safe 24/7.”


Safe and sound

Grandbrier uses a couple of tools to facilitate communication between residents and caregivers, and customizes the technology for different levels of care needs.

GPS resident location technology is used in the independent living and assisted living areas of the community so that caregivers always know where to find residents. A device, made by Status Solutions, is worn by residents at all times and has a button that the residents can push when they need assistance. This sends a signal to Spectralink mobile phones that caregivers carry at all times. Plus, a call, email and text message are all sent to care mangers when a resident pushes the button for assistance.

The GPS technology in the device ensures that there is no confusion about who pushed the button or where they are located. It makes it easy to find residents during an emergency, or for less urgent matters, like to answer a phone call from a family member.

Pathway to Living is conscientious about using these devices only when they will truly benefit staff and residents, because misused technology can create a false sense of care, Reier said.

The pendants are not used in the memory care wing of the community, because these residents do not have the executive order function available to recognize that the button should be pushed when they need help, Reier explained. Eyes on residents is a better option for the memory care area, so Grandbrier caregivers check in on these residents once an hour.

Not only is this tactic important to make sure that the resident is safe, but it is also an opportunity to prevent accidents. For instance, at night a caregiver may check in and find that a resident has rolled close to the end of the bed. The caregiver can reposition them before an accident happens.

A different type of technology has been incorporated into the memory care wing of Grandbrier, though.

The memory care apartments include a motion sensor in the bathroom that sends an alert to caregivers’ Spectralink phones to alert them that a resident may have fallen and needs assistance.

Additionally, the memory care wing is a secure space, so Grandbrier installed a fob system that allows visitors to enter by ringing a bell and being admitted by a staff member. This system was chosen over the use of a touch keypad because research shows that elopement from memory care communities often happens when residents notice and memorize codes or leave with family members.

High-tech workouts and transportation

Grandbrier’s tech-enabled gym features HUR equipment, which are pneumatic, strength-training machines that are designed to be safe and effective for seniors. To use the equipment, residents insert a key card into the machine and it pulls up their profile, including previously entered information on the amount of weight resistance and number of repetitions that that individual should complete during a workout.

The machines also record residents’ progress, so that caregivers can assess if they should exert themselves more or less to maximize their workout.

“The HUR equipment is a win-win for us and the residents,” Reier said. “Strengthening muscles prevents falls, which means fewer trips to the hospital.”

Another draw for potential residents and their families is Grandbrier’s community WiFi. The entire building is WiFi enabled and allows residents and visitors to use smartphones throughout. For those that want to use streaming services like Netflix, Grandbrier’s staff recommends that they get dedicated WiFi for their apartment.

Finally, Grandbrier just started a partnership with Lyft as another transport option, in addition to the community’s 12-passenger mini bus. Lyft affords residents transportation to different places or at different times outside of the bus schedule.

Engagement tracking

With the wide range of care and activities available at Grandbrier, the executive team decided to implement CareMerge, an online record of residents’ involvement and health care appointments.

Aides use iPads to access CareMerge and get a bird’s eye view of what each resident is doing on a daily basis, plus assess what their responsibilities will be each day.

Family members are given access to CareMerge as well, so that they can stay up to date on what community activities their loved one is participating in. It also lets relatives know when their family member went to the doctor and includes notes on what occurred during each visit.

In addition to providing this important information, family members also enjoy using CareMerge to get ideas about what to talk about when they visit, Reier said.

Ultimately, these seemingly small pieces of technology come together to make a senior living community operate more safely, and make residents and their families feel more comfortable and connected.

“Zipping up gaps that existed in technology allows us to better do our jobs and make sure that no one gets missed,” Reier said.

Written by Elizabeth Jakaitis

Photo courtesy of Pathway to Living

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