Falls Prevention and Medical Alarms

2020-08-03 | Uncategorized | By Alexa Willis | 0 Comments

I know from first-hand experience how dangerous falling can be to the seniors that we love. It took three days after a midnight fall at her assisted living residence to end the life of my mother-in-law. From that tragic experience, I have learned that it is the quick response after an inevitable fall that will avoid the terrible chain of events that my family has experienced. 

I realize now that no living situation (home or assisted) can totally guarantee the safety of the senior. Falling is just a part of aging. Seniors experience problems with balance, slow reflexes, poor eyesight, and reactions to medications, as well as inevitable obstacles such as throw rugs, slippery floors and exposed wires, steep stairs wells and uneven curves that create dangers that cannot be avoided as they go about their daily life. 

In an optimal situation, knowing that a fall will be detected immediately could save a life or prevent hardship and discomfort. Also, it allows caregivers more peace of mind as they continue to go about the daily obligations required to meet their other responsibilities. The “sandwich generation” (baby boomers between the ages of 48 and 70) find themselves with the responsibility of caring for immediate family, paying the bills and attempting to keep themselves healthy, while always feeling the responsibility of their aging loved ones who need care on a daily basis. As seniors get older, they unavoidably become more vulnerable to falls which, in turn, become more life threatening. 

While there exists no one answer to resolve this problem, there is a real awareness of a senior’s vulnerability and the availability of a variety of options that can ease stress for both the senior and the caregiver. A senior can fall despite every precaution and the alternatives for their care do not fully remedy the danger. Full-time aides are costly and sometimes unreliable. Seniors often feel uncomfortable living with strangers. Medications can help dementia and Alzheimer’s but cannot cure the disease or change the inevitable conclusion. We can help the senior but we can’t protect them from the danger of their everyday existence. 

A fall prevention check list combined with a monitored Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) are the two main components providing safety and protection to a senior 24 hours a day. 

As every dwelling is different, checklists vary but the items below are included in all standard checklists: 

1. Nightlights should be in hallways, bedrooms and bathrooms 
2. Flashlights should be accessible by the bedside 
3. Safety bars should be installed in the shower area of the bathroom, as well as by the toilet 
4. Handrails are essential on all stairways 

A constant concern of caregivers is that seniors often fall down and are unable to call for assistance. The statistics involving fatality after a fall skyrocket after the age of 75. For this reason, the medical alarm industry has invested years in attempting to develop a product that will detect a person’s fall to quickly respond and provide lifesaving assistance. To date, there is no product available because of a variety of inherent false alarm issues with this type of detector. The product must be able to accurately differentiate between falling and merely bending down. 

However, there are a number of reliable products that will benefit a senior by allowing him or her to establish communication in a time of need. The basic medical alarm has a pendant that can be worn around the neck or wrist that can be pressed to get help by relaying a problem to a trained operator at a monitoring center offering 24-hour protection. A false alarm will be easily detected due to direct hands-free two-way voice communication with the wearer. Unfortunately, the senior who falls and cannot reach their pendant will still be at a loss. For this reason, a more reliable alternative is the inactivity sensor. 

This device can be used in conjunction with a PERS unit to look for signs of inactivity of the senior. It can be programmed to look for motion (every 2, 4, 6 or 8 hours) in places where the senior is active during the day. Two of the most common places are the kitchen and bathroom. If motion is detected, no further initiatives are taken. However, if no motion is detected the operator will call the senior to ensure that everything is all right. 

Medical Alarm manufacturers are working on more reliable products to detect falls without the inherent product problems that exist today. Until that time, we must take all the precautions available in the senior’s living environment to lessen the prospect of falling in their daily routine. Both the utilization of a fall prevention check list and a medical alert pendant are necessary elements needed to give the senior the independence they deserve.