Looking at the statistics that have been gathered regarding how many adults over the age of 65 fall in a given year—that would be one in three, by the way, according to the experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—it’s easy to understand why so many senior living operators are eager to learn all they can about technological advancements that could help their staffers better predict and respond to resident falls.
In recent years, a slew of systems, gadgets, and devices have hit the market that assist senior housing operators in the quest to cut down on the length of time it takes their caregivers to become aware of and respond to resident falls. Here are three examples of how and why these technologies can improve response times in senior living communities.
1. Increasingly sophisticated fall monitoring technology facilitates more rapid and educated responses
Advancements in the technology powering health monitoring systems mean that tomorrow’s technology is here today. Historically, fall monitoring systems made use of glorified two-way radios and geolocation tools to help senior living providers keep tabs on residents and provide those residents a safeguard (in the form of a button to push or cord to pull) should they fall or otherwise find themselves incapacitated. Today’s systems, however, make use of advanced technologies that are smarter, more discreet, and more useful than seen in previous iterations of similar technology in the senior living space.
For example, some of these fall monitoring and alert systems make use of technologies that monitor vital signs, motion, gait speed—and more. The resulting benefit for companies that invest in these products: the solution learns about and becomes acquainted with the details of each resident’s normal behaviors and health status. When a particular resident’s behavior or vital signs deviate from pre-established norms, an alert can be sent to both staff and family—a coordinated effort that enables them to respond to conditions that elevate residents’ risk for falls and intervene with care to prevent more falls altogether, as well as avoid the injuries that often go along with those incidents.
In addition, many modern fall alert or fall management systems free senior housing residents from having to wear a pendant or push a button: many technologies are smart enough to detect falls and let caregivers know about them instantly – along with providing an infrared video of the fall – all without the resident ever having to take manual action of any sort.
2. Wearables continue to have a place in senior communities, too
That isn’t to say fall alert systems that require seniors to wear pendants or push buttons should be summarily dismissed as an option for all senior living residents. This is especially true now that devices that traditionally have been flagship examples of this technology are taking on new and far more aesthetically pleasing, not to mention comfortable, forms.
For example, some companies in the senior technology space are now producing wearables that look like watches, like Lively, and even patches that can be embedded in clothing or worn directly on the skin, such as HealthPatch.
While at first glance, watches and patches may not initially sound very impressive, consider that gadgets are only worthwhile if aging adults actually wear them – and many seniors are more likely to agree to wear a watch or a patch than a pendant around their necks. Plus, many of these wearables can do much more than simply alert senior housing staff to the fact that one of their community’s residents may have fallen: some also keep an eye on a wearer’s vital signs or remind them to take their medicine, among other attributes and activities.
3. Beeping alarms are (mostly) a thing of the past
This is a positive development for a whole host of reasons, the most relevant of which is that the alarms that are emitted by many of today’s fall alert and fall management systems are far more sophisticated than in previous years. Today’s fall monitoring and fall alert systems can not only help identify when falls occur, they can also provide caregivers with valuable response-improving information about the cause and effects of the fall that may be text- or even image-based.
Specifically, some of these offerings are engineered so they can go far beyond letting employees know, en masse, that a resident may have fallen. Instead, these fall monitoring technologies can direct detailed alerts to specific staffers, or even provide caregivers specific information regarding how they can or should intervene—for example, by moving physical obstacles in a resident’s living space so as to prevent future falls. Taken together, the capabilities of these technologies can not only help senior housing operators improve how quickly falls are addressed; they can also help reduce the likelihood of future falls.
In addition, these alerts can be delivered to wide range of communication devices and to any approved tree of people including both staff and family. This is an especially important consideration for senior living operators that equip community caregivers or other staff members with smartphones, tablets, or laptops, and knowing caregivers have this type of visibility into a fall should one occur offers unparalleled peace of mind for family members.
Has your organization adopted any technologies or practices that have helped you and your employees improve your fall alert response time? If so, please let us know about them in the comments section below.