Falling Forward: Technology Moves from Fall Detection to Fall Prevention

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One out of every three seniors will fall this year. And with the graying of the U.S. population—35 million people over age 65, with 10,000 more joining the group each day—that’s a significant number of falls. 

To compound the problem, most seniors will do nothing about a fall because they either don’t know what to do or they don’t want to be inconvenienced… or inform caregivers that they’ve had a fall. 

Until recently, the mostly commonly used technology was fall notification devices, such as “Nurse Call” and “PERS.” But both had limitations. 

Nurse Call required the senior to be close to the wall-mounted call station when they fell, which is kind of hard to plan.  The PERS, or personal emergency response system, did at least put the notification device on the senior. However, a recent industry study found that many users actually chose not to press the button and request assistance or they weren’t wearing the PERS when they fell.

As Jim Anderson, President of Care Technology Systems, wrote in an article in the recent issue of Senior Care Products, unfortunately, the senior care industry can’t prevent all falls from happening. However, it can use ever-evolving technology to better detect falls and, hopefully, prevent the bigger ones.  By collecting data on the habits of seniors — which is something the newer fall notification devices can do — and allowing analytics to determine behavioral trends, we can get a better sense of fall predictors.  

Which allows caregivers to offer timely, effective interventions.  

Smarter PERS. With the “active” PERS, the senior still wears a pendant, but the pendant contains an accelerometer (your Smart phone has one to provide the right display orientation), which senses motion, activity, acceleration and direction.  The device can tell if a fall has occurred and send an alert without the user having to press the button.  

We just put our newest version — the Active CarePendant – on the market last month.  

Since fall prevention is preferable to fall detection it’s best to have an active PERS transmits both alerts and data on the senior’s general movement and activity.  This data can be analyzed to spot trends that indicate the higher likelihood of a fall.  Plus, the system can detect when the senior’s not wearing the pendant and send an automatic reminder. 

In our minds, this type of active PERS is a significant step in moving us closer to fall prevention for seniors and way past fall detection.  Its truly an exciting time to be in the senior care industry.

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