Window coverings are an important visual element in any behavioral health care setting. With the current emphasis on creating “residential”, “home-like” and “welcoming” environment there is interest in how these goals can be achieved safely.
Curtains are currently being discouraged by some (including myself) because their track, “break-away” fasteners (which can be grouped together to create significant holding force) and the large pieces of material all present potential hazards to patients.
Mini-blinds are frequently used in residences, but the cords, wands and slats are also problematic. These can be used if they are placed behind a panel of either polycarbonate (i.e. Lexan) or security glass (not standard laminated or tempered glass). Some provision will need to be provided to allow patients and/or staff to adjust the tilt.
Vertical blinds also typically utilize chains or wands which are hazardous to these patients.
Standard roller blinds are also problematic in that the rollers are easily removed as is the bottom bar. Both of these could be used as weapons by patients to harm themselves or others.
Specialized roller blinds are available that have been modified to be more safe to use in these patient environments. These are the Level-Lock series by Webb Shade. These blinds do not use any cords or chains, the roller is secured in a heavy gauge enclosure that minimizes tampering opportunities and the bottom bar is made of several short pieces of heavy gauge metal tubing that resists crushing and minimizes opportunities for use as a weapon. The curved plastic items in the center are pinched together to release the blind so it can be raised or lowered to one of several pre-determined positions. The end pieces that lock into the side rails can be made to break away at different loads, based on the needs of the patient populations being served. The blind itself is made of a very tough grade of vinyl in a range of colors and textures. Facilities can even choose to have photographs or other artwork printed on the fabric.
I was provided the opportunity recently to do some destructive testing on some of these blinds and came away impressed their ruggedness and the lack of dangerous items available to patients when they are severely abused…the blinds that is. When they do break-away, the risks of opportunities to obtain items to use for inflicting harm to themselves or others is minimal (in my opinion). These are not entirely without risk, as is any product, but the opportunities provided are greatly reduced from standard roller blinds and many of the other choices listed above.
The aesthetics of these blinds can add a great deal to the quality of the atmosphere and contribute to a soothing, welcoming and “normal” (whatever that is) environment that is conducive to healing and recovery.
These may not be appropriate for all patient populations or in all locations (such as patient rooms) they may be usable throughout some patient environments. As always, these decisions are up to the individual facility and careful review by the Safety and Risk Management Programs in place.