It would be hard to overstate the possible negative impact of a fall in a senior’s quality of life. Twenty percent of falls cause serious injury, including broken bones and head injuries, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
Falls are widespread, sending 2.5 million seniors to the emergency room each year. Falls are costly, too. Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $34 billion annually, CDC reports.
For operators of senior housing, the salient fact is that many of these events are preventable. With appropriate monitoring and warning systems, falls can be reduced throughout a community. Unfortunately for seniors and their caregivers, many of the most common alert systems are not adequate to the task.
Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) and pendants warrant careful attention, given the pervasiveness of these measures in senior care. In this scenario, the senior is equipped with a small, lightweight pendant worn on a lanyard or chain. In times of distress the senior can press a button to signal the need for assistance. That message is relayed to caregivers on duty.
Sometimes a system may be configured to deliver its alert directly to emergency responders. In many senior living communities, however, IT managers will need to organize infrastructure to integrate a call into existing systems. This can make for a complicated and costly option.
Perhaps of greatest concern, pendants require the senior to take positive action. This assumes the senior is sufficiently aware and adequately mobile to take action. That’s not a given, especially in a fall situation.
The common alternative is a nurse call system with a pull-cord option. It can be a useful option in cases in which the senior resists wearing a pendant. Here again, though, utility depends on the senior’s ability to take positive action. Some magnetic systems get around this with a passive functionality that triggers a call for help when a magnetic connection is broken. Still, the basic design of a pull cord falls short of an optimal solution.
A better way
Having assessed their present fall alert systems, many senior housing operators will decide their solutions today are inadequate. Fortunately, there is a better option available: A passive, sensor-based system driven by artificial intelligence (AI) software.
In such a system, a senior need have no involvement either with the monitoring of fall likelihood or the response to a fall event. Rather, carefully situated sensors continuously record the senior’s activities, while AI software builds up patterns of common motion. When a senior begins to deviate from the norm, the software alerts caregivers to the emergence of a potentially negative situation.
Perhaps the most significant distinction here is between prevention and response. Traditional fall alert systems send out word of a crisis after that crisis has already occurred. The fall has happened before caregivers can intervene.
The better option – sensors and intelligent software – subverts the conventional model. Caregivers have the opportunity to intervene before a negative event, given seniors the chance to avoid a possible medical crisis, and giving community operators the peace of mind in knowing that their residents are safe and well cared for.