According to the CDC, one out of every four persons over 65 years old falls every year, but less than half report the fall to their doctor. Each year, approximately 3 million older persons are treated for falls in emergency rooms. The risk of or fear of falling can lead to the inability to live alone, or it can reduce your quality of life. This article will explore falls and discuss ways that they can be prevented.
Risks Associated with Falling
Even though many people never report a fall to their physician, one out of every five falls will result in a broken bone or head injury. Hip fracture and head injury are the most common reasons for hospitalization after a fall. The risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI) is another potential risk that causes fear as we age and among our loved ones.
Certain groups of people are at a particular risk if they should fall, such as those on blood thinners. Physical side effects and injuries are a reason for many to become fearful after they fall. Even if they are not injured, it can cause people to lose confidence, and this fear can prevent them from doing the things that they love.
What Causes Falls As We Age
According to the CDC, one of the more common causes of falls is that as people become less active, they become weaker, and this makes them more prone to falls. Several other factors can increase the potential that a person will experience a fall. These include:
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Balance or walking problems
- Certain medications
- Vision problems
- Pain in the feet and legs
- Improper footwear
- Home hazards, such as steps, throw rugs, or clutter
- Blood pressure or blood glucose problems
- Other health problems that cause fainting or dizziness
This is by no means a complete list, but it can give you a few things to look for around the home that could cause falls. Pets can also be another contributor. Broken or uneven steps, loose gravel, or slippery surfaces around the home can be a source of falls. The next question is how to prevent falls.
What Precautions Can Be Taken to Prevent Falls?
Anyone can provide an evaluation of fall risks using this list or a similar one. It takes looking around and viewing anything with suspicion that could potentially cause a fall hazard. Many of the items on the list can easily be eliminated, such as fixing broken steps, tape to keep throw rugs from slipping, and keeping clutter out the floor.
Here are a few things that you can do to help prevent fall hazards around the home:
- Eliminate any tripping hazards that you notice.
- Install grab bars inside and outside the tub and shower.
- Make sure stairs have railings on both sides.
- Make sure the inside and outside of the home have adequate light.
Unfortunately, some of the reasons for falls cannot be eliminated so easily. Taking care of medical conditions and working closely with your physician can help reduce falls caused by medications or medical conditions. In many cases, there is little that you can do about these hazards. The best thing that you can do to control these risks is to talk to your physician and come up with a plan together.
One thing to keep in mind is that everyone’s fall risks are different. A one-size-fits-all fall prevention plan will not work for everyone. You need to evaluate the risks that affect you or your loved one. This will allow you to develop a strategy that addresses the most important factors for the person.
Sometimes, it is difficult to identify the fall hazards in our own homes and in ourselves. We are used to our homes and can overlook these hazards. This is especially true if you have lived in your home before your individual fall risk became greater. Things that you used to take for granted when you were younger now become potential hazards. Healthcare professionals, home aids, and others will often be glad to help you do a fall hazard evaluation of you and your home. They can see those things that we might miss and can be a valuable resource for advice on how to reduce those risks.
Before we discuss more about medical alerts, we’d like to make you familiar with some providers of medical alert devices with fall detection features. If you want to skip down to the deep dive on fall detection devices, click here.
Medical Care Alert is an at-home safety detection system. The system sends alerts when you need help, and trained operators will keep you safe until paramedics arrive.
|😀 PROS||😡 CONS|
|Home medical alert system with free trial||No on-the-go protection|
|Available fall detection systems||Devices aren’t owned|
|A+ customer service and monitor rating|
from the BBB
|Must opt in for fall detection|
GreatCall specializes in making phones and medical alert devices for seniors. These can detect when you’re in danger, help you make emergency calls, and make it easier to navigate modern technology.
|😀 PROS||😡 CONS|
|Tools available at multiple price points||Monthly plan subscriptions can get pricey|
|Smartphones are super inexpensive||No daily check-in service|
|All interfaces are easy to use||Not the most advanced medical alert technology|
LifeFone is a company that offers medical alert systems to seniors in-home and on-the-go. Whether you’re out and about or staying home, there’s a device for you.
|😀 PROS||😡 CONS|
|40+ years of experience with an A+ BBB rating||Fall detection isn’t automatically included|
|Equipment range of 1300 feet for at-home and|
|Caregiver tools can get pricey|
|Waterproof wristband and pendant||Battery needs recharging every 32 hours|
Fall Detection Devices or Medical Alerts
The risk of a fall is one of the main reasons why seniors lose their independence and ability to live on their own. Fall detection devices or medical alerts can offer one solution to help a person remain on their own for a longer time. Some medical alert systems offer fall detection and will contact the alert center if one is detected. Here is how they work.
Medical alerts are a device that is usually worn around the neck. It has a big button. If the person has an emergency, they can press the button and it sends out a signal to the call center. An operator will answer the call and summon a family member or emergency services if needed. Those with fall detection will send out a call to the center automatically, which can be good if the person should happen to be unconscious and unable to answer.
Fall detection works using some of the same sensors that are on your cell phone. They use accelerometers and other motion sensors to detect a fall. The sensors take certain data and feed it into an algorithm. Most of the systems are now very good at detecting an actual fall as opposed to a false alarm.
Medical alert neck devices are waterproof, so they can be worn in the shower, which is a common place where falls occur. Now, some companies are also beginning to offer bracelets and watches. Most fall detection devices are lightweight and comfortable.
Things to Consider Before Buying Medical Alert Devices
Before choosing a medical alert with fall detection, you need to make sure you understand any monthly monitoring fees. Make sure that you understand the company’s cancelation policy and that you read any contracts carefully. If there is anything that you do not understand, be sure to ask.
One thing to be aware of is that there are some scammers out there who offer you a device that does not do what it is supposed to do, or that does not have a monitoring service attached. These devices are a useless piece of plastic. Unfortunately, these people like to prey on seniors by phone or through the mail. Many of them will have exceptionally high fees and might make claims like 100% accuracy. If it sounds too good to be true, you know that it is probably not true at all.
The best way to avoid these scams is to buy from a reputable company that has been in business for a long time. Your physician or caregiver can probably give you some connections to devices that have a good reputation in the business. You can also check with organizations such as AARP, Consumer Affairs, and the Better Business Bureau.
Testing Medical Alerts
No device is 100% accurate, and some are better than others. When you get your new device home, you should test out different moves with your caregiver to see which ones trigger the device. The device should trigger after a sudden movement that is followed by a period of stillness. When testing the device be sure to stay still for a few moments after the fake fall.
Fall detection devices might not register slow, gradual falls, like sliding out of a wheelchair, but they should alert on hard, sudden falls. If they do not, you should call customer service to troubleshoot the device. Most of them should be worn outside of the clothing in order to register a fall correctly.
The first next thing that you should learn to do is to cancel a false alarm. Sometimes, if you bend over to pick something up quickly or you drop it, the alarm can sound. Most of them have a separate button to cancel the call, or you will need to speak to a representative. If you do not, they will automatically send emergency services and assume that you are unconscious.
A fall detection device is not 100% perfect, but it offers an extra layer of protection. You have a connection to dispatch and emergency services that will respond even if you are alone and unable to call. For those who must leave their parents and other loved ones alone, this extra layer of protection can be peace of mind. For those who are afraid of a fall, or who have experienced a fall in the past, these devices can give you back your confidence and allow you to do things that you were afraid of in the past. They can allow you to live alone for much longer because of the extra-added protection.