Automatic Fall Detection: A New Way to Call for Help


What if there's a fall and nobody's there to help?

Even when a caregiver makes diligent efforts to prevent their elderly parent from falling, falls are often inevitable. Falls can result from a variety of conditions such as mobility, difficulty from arthritis, vertigo from poor circulation, negative reactions to medication, etc. Whatever the cause, more than one third of seniors will fall this year.

Personal emergency response systems can help by providing a "panic button" device that a senior can press if an accident occurs. But what happens if the senior is unconscious, forgets to wear the device, or is in shock from falling and simply forgets to press the button? In those cases, that "panic button" is essentially useless.

Cases like these are relatively common, according Chris Otto, President and CEO of Halo Monitoring. He points to a study by the British Medical Journal. "Among the elderly people studied, only 20% of seniors pushed the panic button following a fall. The majority of the products on the market are only effective if the senior presses the panic button. This means that many seniors are left unprotected during a fall," he explains.

Some new technologies are addressing the issue by detecting falls automatically. "Automated fall detection means that no button needs to be pressed. If the senior falls, the device detects it and calls for help," says Otto, whose Halo Monitoring utilizes an automated fall detection system.

Fall detection sensors measure a person's sway, orientation, and impact with surface.The senior clips on a chest strap or wrist band.

Because the strap comes in contact with the skin, the monitoring company and caregiver will know if the senior is wearing the device, or they forget to put it on.

A similar product is a pendant-style help button that can automatically place a call for help if it detects a fall.

These devices use sensors to constantly monitor a person's movement and activities. It uses multiple sensors to constantly monitor a person's movement by assessing height, orientation and accelerated movement to distinguish between normal activities and falls. For example, when a person is walking, sitting in chair or getting out of bed, the systems are monitoring those motions as normal activity. The systems measure the acceleration in changes in movement, as well as the person's height and heart rate. When a person falls, the device automatically senses the acceleration of a movement and change in height. The monitoring system automatically activates and calls for emergency help, as well as contacting the caregiver.

This type of technology enables caregivers to take comfort in knowing their parent's button will call for help, even if they can't.

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Yes, my mother will not even use a panic button. She says her sister, who lived alone, had one, and when she used it, the firemen broke her door down. (Well, duh!) "I'm not going to have my door broken!! That's awful!" She'd rather lay there until someone finds her... Grrr.

Even now when she lives with us, if she falls at night, she'll lay there until morning so as "not to disturb my sleep."
I did a double-take on this. The link says, "... a new way to prevent falls", which makes no sense. But the actual article IS titled correctly.

Otherwise, it sounds good. My grandmother, at 105, could use this product. She agreed over 3 years ago to not get up in the middle of the night to use her walker to go to the bathroom. But she won't follow that rule, and cheats, despite having had a few falls in the past.

I don't want to rely on her mind and fingers working correctly with the usual pendant device, especially in the trauma following a fall. That 20% statistic confirms my suspicions, except that it's probably even worse for her age group.
My father has one of the pendants with a senser that will detect a fall in many situations. Unfortunately he tucks it underneath his shirt and t-shirt so it probably will not give an accurate reading, especially if he falls. He also removes the pendant when he sleeps at night. Said it goes off on its own at times. So a trip to the bathroom if he feel could mean he's laying there for hours longer.