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Paynesville Press - Oct. 2, 2002

New system protects patients at Koronis Manor

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Staff and family members of patients at the Koronis Manor can breathe a little easier now that a system to curb wandering patients is in place - thanks to the Paynesville Area Hospital Auxilliary.

Wandering system The wandering system can keep patients who are prone to wandering from going outside or from wandering into the hospital or 700 Stearns Place. Patients who are considered high risk for wandering are fitted with an electronic wristband. When the patient comes within 10 feet of an exit, the door automatically locks.

The auxiliary spent three years raising money for the system. Through a golf scramble, pork chop dinners, spaghetti dinners, a quilt raffle, and more, the auxiliary raised almost $23,000 to pay for it.

Jay Ophoven, long-term care administrator for the Paynesville Area Health Care System, who oversees the Koronis Manor, said the nursing staff loves the new system. "Now they don't feel like they need to have eyes in the backs of their heads," said Ophoven.

The wandering system is attached to seven exit doors at the Koronis Manor and prevents at-risk patients from wandering outside the building.

Certain types of dementia cause patients to wander. Many of them will randomly push on doors, unaware that going through a door to the outside could be dangerous to somebody who is disoriented, said Ophoven, who adds that wandering is especially dangerous in the winter.

Three people in the Manor were fitted with a wristband when the system first became operable in late August.

New patients are assessed for seven days after they are admitted to the Manor. If the assessment indicates a need for the patient to be part of the wandering system, a doctor has to give an order and the patient's family has to approve the order since the wandering system is a form of restraint.

While patients wearing the wristband can't easily exit the building, safeguards are built in for emergencies. "Normally a patient with dementia will give a door a push and if it doesn't easily open, they move on. In the case of a fire or another emergency, the door will open if the patient pushes on the door for 10-15 seconds," said Ophoven. If a patient exits through a door that is open - perhaps from somebody else exiting or entering the building - an alarm will sound and continue until it is turned off, added Ophoven.

Etheline Spanier, auxiliary president, said the auxiliary was alerted to the need for the wandering system by the staff of the Koronis Manor.

At first, auxiliary members were hesitant to take on such an enormous project, but were able to raise the money for the system so it could be installed during the Manor's current remodeling project.

The auxiliary has already begun to work on its next project - new furniture for the chapel and visiting room at the Koronis Manor.

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