Everyone can fall, whether young or old. It happens, and there is no way around it. Sometimes seniors fall because of some obstacle that got on their way, and which they failed to notice. Sometimes falls are caused by some health condition, or due to our clumsiness. These are some of the reasons why we need to deploy fall detection devices among our loved ones.
When we are young, we don’t put much thought into it. That’s because we tend to get back immediately and keep on with our day. But in the latter part of life, things tend to get complicated, even if it seems like a small, harmless fall.
For a young person witnessing that, the fall might look even trivial. However, for an elder person, that small, harmless fall, might be the opening to something way scarier. It can prelude to a significant injury that needs immediate action, or the consequences might be dire. Furthermore, the recovery time is also exponentially longer. There is always a risk that the injury might worsen some other pre-existing condition. So, things can instantly go from being okay to needing full-time care for your dear one.
According to official statistics, one out of four seniors older than 65 falls at least once per year. If your loved ones live alone or spend a lot of time alone, the risk of falling is always lurking. If that happens, they might not be able to reach a phone or even press a medical alert button to get help.
This is where a new generation of fall detection devices for seniors step in. They are equipped with sensors that are triggered when the user falls and automatically sends a distress call. There is no need for the person to press a button or do anything at all. The call for help is sent, and unless the user cancels the call for help, someone will arrive to assist the user and help them. The automatic detection technology is already proving to be effective and practical.
To paint a better picture of how fall detection device works, we’ve made an introductory guide to fall detection technology. We will talk about how you benefit most from this tech. Also, we will mention the essential features to consider when buying an automatic fall detection device system. Then, we will talk about how to make the most of it, the current limitations of the fall detection technology, and if it is worth the cost.
How does automatic fall detection work?
Automatic fall detection is typically part of a pendant and can be worn around the waist or wrist. Lately, some companies have even designed products that incorporate fall detection within their devices, such as a smartwatch. As a result, there is no need to wear a pendant at all.
Fall detection devices come with detection sensors (processors and accelerometers) that rely on low power radio waves to distinguish normal behavior from falling. They continuously measure the speed of movement and direction of movement. That way, they can conclude when it is a normal activity and when it is an actual fall.
As a result, the user can take naps, relax on the couch, even take a shower – the fall detection won’t send any alerts.
Do you need to get an automatic fall detection device?
Who needs the fall detection device the most?
At what age is it best to buy an automatic fall detection device for your loved one?
These two questions can point you in the right direction.
Older adults with diabetes, poor eye-sight, cognitive problems, some cardiovascular condition, neuromuscular disease, reaction time problems, are just some of the conditions that significantly increase the risk of falling.
Then there is the use of medications that can have a massive effect on their movements and balance. For example, polypharmacy, cardiovascular medications, and sedatives can also increase the risk of falling.
Age sounds like an essential factor, but the overall condition and shape of the person matter a lot. Sometimes, someone at 80 years old age can be in much better shape than someone ten or fifteen years younger.
But, aside from age and the overall condition of the older adult, there are many more extrinsic risks of falling. These risks include poor lighting, steep stairs, floors with low friction, no grab bars in the bathroom, doorways with low headroom, and so on.
Another way to approach this issue is by going through the following set of questions. This way, you can find the answer to whether one needs the assistance of an automated fall detection device or not.
- Does he or she have a pre-existing health condition like diabetes that can lead to a fall?
- Does he or she leave alone and insists on doing all the chores they were doing in the past when they were much younger?
- Are there are any rooms in the house featuring slippery floors?
- Are there any stairs in the house, and do they need to use the stairs frequently?
- Do they live in a region in which there is a lot of ice during the winter months?
- Are they overweight?
- Has it happened for them to shuffle their legs instead of walking straight?
- Has she or he have broken a hip before and needs to mind not to fall again?
- Does the bathroom have a step in a bath or a shower?
The list is far from final and definitive, but this is just enough to point you toward the right answer.
Features to consider when choosing an automatic fall detection device
Some of the essential features of a great automatic fall detection device include:
- Is it an automatic fall detection device or a regular one featuring a button to be pressed in case of a fall? It’s wrong to assume that all fall detection devices are automatic, as many are not and don’t come with an automatic detection feature.
- Being waterproof is quite essential, and a must-have feature for any fall detection device. If the device is waterproof, the user can wear it while showering in the bathroom. We all know how slippery a bathroom can get, and it presents a clear risk of falling.
- Reliability is also something to consider as not all devices can successfully detect a fall anytime it happens. Some tend to send false distress calls. There can be a huge difference between the two devices from different manufacturers. If possible, ask for more data and statistics related to efficiency of detecting a fall. You should also know how often it mistakes falling for something else.
- Having GPS technology is great if the user spends a lot of time outdoors. That way, the automatic fall detection device tells the responders that the user has fallen, and his/her exact location.
- Ease of use is not a feature per se, but for an older person, it matters a lot. The user needs to be able to remove it and place it back easily. Also, the user needs to cancel a call with just a button click easily.
How to make the most of your automatic fall detection device?
When it comes to fall detection devices, one way is to wear the pendant over the clothes. That way, the pendant can be way more effective than tucking it under your clothes.
Secondly, the user needs to know how to cancel a call manually. It can happen for a pendant to falsely conclude that the user has fallen, and it might send an alert. The user needs to be able to cancel the call easily. Sometimes that includes holding the pendant button for a couple of seconds, other times to do something else to reset it. In any case, every pendant comes with a manual that describes how to do that.
Last but not least, the device needs to alert the user that it needs to be re-charged. Otherwise, the device can run off power and be completely useless. Whether it is a light signal or a strong sound effect, it needs to grab the user’s attention.
Current limitations of technology
The most significant risks are with false alerts. We can’t say that this technology can detect any fall with 100% accuracy. The new generation automatic fall detection devices are becoming more and more sophisticated. They include top movement sensors supported by advanced algorithms that make them even more reliable.
On a positive note, the best automatic fall detection systems have a high degree of accuracy, are super-easy to use, and feature manual cancellation of a call.
Is it worth the cost?
The final part is reserved for the question – is it worth the cost?
If you want your loved one to have the best chances for help in case of falling, then the cost is more than justified. Timing is everything with older adults, the sooner they get help, the better their chances for fast recovery. The faster the recovery, the smaller the medical bill will be.
Often, speedy help even means better chances to survive the fall in the first place.
In a way, an automatic fall detection device is like having someone watching over them in case they find themselves lying helpless on the ground.