To understand the role of fall monitoring in increasing seniors’ independence, it helps to first take a look at how falls can diminish independence.
Falls are among the leading causes of older Americans losing their mobility. One out of three older adults (those aged 65 or older) falls each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Some 2.5 million nonfatal falls were treated in the emergency room in CDC’s latest statistics, and 734,000 of these were hospitalized.
Clearly, the prospect of falls can put severe constraints on a senior’s independence, leading as they do to prolonged hospital stays and/or time in bed. Fortunately, the latest technologies make it possible to reduce the risk of falls, thereby increasing independence among residents at senior living facilities.
Advanced sensors to measure mobility
The latest prevention tools rely on sophisticated sensors that measure a range of indicators of mobility. So long as all signs are positive, a senior is able to enjoy a high degree of independence.
Take for instance the “TUG” score, or Timed Up and Go. Until recent innovations, this has historically been a manual test that was administered by care providers at a single point in time, then recorded to indicate a resident’s fall risk. In order to determine if there were any changes, the test would have to be administered again, thus it’s accuracy diminished over time, plus the manual process of administering the test was a time consuming process. Today, fall monitoring tools – especially completely automated systems that passively monitor residents’ movement and gait patterns – can continuously calculate a TUG score for an always up-to-date fall risk, and alert care providers when fall risk is elevating so they may intervene to prevent more falls. This leaves the senior free to enjoy all the usual liberties of movement and frees up staff time, while providing both the peace of mind that care is readily available should a fall occur.
Rewind and review incident video
Another significant development is the “rewind and review” feature. In order to be restored to full independence as quickly as possible, it helps if caregivers can know the way in which a resident has fallen, as well as if there was something in particular (for example, a physical obstacle) that contributed to the fall. The newest review technologies make it possible to analyze falls and understand which area of the body has been affected.
Such a system can not only help to diagnose and treat a fall when it occurs and restore independence as quickly as possible, but can also help the senior to maintain freedom of movement over time by allowing caregivers to determine which contributing factors should be altered to prevent future risk – all while still protecting resident privacy by using only infrared, depth sensor imaging.
Beyond technology-based fall monitoring systems
In addition to these non-intrusive fall monitoring technologies, there is much a residence can do to help seniors reduce the risk of falls and maintain their independence.
Regular exercise is an important feature in fall reduction, and that is something senior living operators can encourage. A portal-type intra-residence communications system for instance can help care directors to schedule exercise sessions and communicate directly with seniors in order to ensure attendance. Getting seniors to an exercise class is a big way to help reduce the risk of falls.
In fact, good communications systems can go a long way toward preventing falls all around. By reaching out to seniors by email, text and other timely reminders, directors can make sure their residents make it to doctor’s appointments, maintain a healthy diet and generally remain engaged in the life of the community, where caregivers can enable ongoing independence by helping to reduce the root causes of falls.
A portal-type communications system opens the door to a range of such early interventions. By giving seniors simplified access to their preferred social networks and clear communications within their own communities, senior residence operators can go a long way toward ensuring ongoing wellness and independence.
What type of fall monitoring systems does your senior living community use? How have you found that they have impacted resident independence and overall quality of care? Let us know in the comments section below.