Elderly: Fall nine times, get up 10!

The term falling refers to the event of sudden and involuntary drop or descend to the ground. In the Netherlands, more than 30% of the elderly over 65 years old fall once a year and 15% fall more than once a year. When the elderly get older, the risk of falling also increases.

When elderly still live at home, the risk of falling is higher than when they live in a care facility.  Common causes for falling at home are decreased mobility and balance, dizziness, strong medications and environmental factors such as doorsteps and an over furnished living room. To prevent elderly from being forced to live in a care facility, there are practical solutions such as ensuring a safe floor, functionally furnished rooms (meaning ensuring furniture which could function as support is fixed) at their homes.

Although falling often results in fear of falling, exercise and being outdoors are great fall prevention methods. Exercise and vitamin D contribute, according to research, to mobility and balance.

Whether one is still living at home or in an institution, knowing someone is looking after them is a great confidence boost and decreases the fear of falling considerably. Of course, we do not refer by the term ‘looking after them’ to monitoring by cameras, since this would eliminate their privacy completely. We refer to the feeling, that if something happens, someone is notified by a critical message and is capable of helping them.

By providing such an environment, which provides confidence to move around at home or in a care facility, technology could help to create a covered area in which the elderly is being passively monitored. Passive in this case, means that in the event of a dangerous situation or a fall the technology is capable of making a decision to send out an alarm.  As where traditional nurse call systems are based on active alarming, the person has to perform the act of making an alarm themselves.

Passive alarming is a great way to improve the level of resident monitoring without compromising on their privacy. With current technological developments in the world of nurse call systems, wandering systems and domotica, nursing homes and elderly often already have a lot of elements placed in their homes or organisation which could participate into a network of passive sensors to safeguard a person’s wellbeing, without them knowing. The missing part?, linking them together.

In an earlier article (care systems), we already described different type of nurse call systems and care systems in general. Here we describe, in general, solutions of passive alarming for fall detection.  The application of such monitoring is applicable at home and in nursing homes

An example of a passive alarm which can help detecting falling, is the bed mat. A bed mat registers whether the resident is in bed or not. When the person is not back in bed within a prior set time, this may indicate a fall and an alarm is launched.

The portable transmitter is similar to the portable wireless neck/wrist transmitter which is a very traditional nurse call element.  The only difference is that the portable transmitter continuously monitors the activity of the resident and launches an alarm when a sudden movement to the ground is noticed.

Another element that could help detecting falls is the motion detection (Sensor not a camera). Motion detection monitors the activity of the resident. This nurse call system launches an alarm when the detector does not detect any movement over a certain period of time. When the detector does not detect movement, or the resident is on the floor, the right person is notified.

By using an integration platform, different nurse call systems, domotica and wandering systems could be combined into one network of elements monitoring the wellbeing of a person. By setting rules to these elements a custom made care monitoring plan can be developed, allowing the resident to keep their autonomy and privacy. In case something is wrong, the system intervenes and notifies the person according to pre-set (time of day, type of alarm, availability of receiver) contact list. Additionally, a communication module ensures that an alarm well never be missed and can only be dismissed until the right person acknowledge awareness of the alarm.

Important benefit: Nurse call systems and domotica are often expensive systems. By using a vendor-independent integration platform, existing systems, regardless the brand, can often be used in passive monitoring network (lifestyle monitoring). By using the current an new systems in a strategic way, care would be significantly improved and money on investment and maintenance could be saved.

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