Elderly Safety

Fall Detectors for the Elderly

TEC Editor July 2, 2018

Falling is never fun. And as one grows older the chances of falling and causing oneself a
serious injury increases. One of the biggest fears is whether help will reach in time. This is
especially true for those who are alone in the house at that time. Even a mobile phone or
an emergency call button may be just out of reach. Or a person may not be in a position to
operate the device at all.

What is needed is a device that automatically detects a fall, and can be programmed to
take the proper action.

How it works
Today such devices are easily available in the market. These devices – usually known as
Fall Detectors – are essentially a combination of a wearable activity tracker and a
communication system. And some may even come with a subscription based emergency

Commercial activity trackers for sports and fitness have been around for a decade now.
Through the use of one or more built-in sensors and statistical analysis, these devices can
identify actions with a high degree of accuracy. A good tracker can easily tell whether the
wearer is walking, running, sitting or even sleeping. Or if they have just taken a fall.

Once a fall or a critical condition has been detected, the communications part of the device
gets activated. Depending on the type and sophistication of the device, there are a wide
range of communication options. An entry level one may be configured to send messages
to pre-determined numbers. It would then be up to the recipient to find out the severity of
injury and arrange for assistance. High-end devices may provide a two way
communication with a medical centre, which can then try to assess the medical needs and
then alert an ambulance service. The latter type is usually subscription based service that
is bundled together with the device.

An advantage with a subscription based service is that any pre-existing medical conditions
will be known to the medical centre. These conditions can then be factored into the
response. For instance, if the subscriber has a known heart problem or is diabetic, the
emergency team can come prepared for the corresponding complications.

An important feature of all such devices is that alert is triggered automatically and does not
need any action on the part of the wearer. This is what makes it safer and more useful
than depending on a mobile phone or emergency call button.

Features to look out for
A feature common to all these devices is that they need to be worn at all times. So, the
preference should be for one that is comfortable and unobtrusive. A popular design is one
that can be worn on the wrist. This may look like a watch or a smart watch that are very
popular these days. Some brands offer a device that can be worn around the neck, with
the pendant containing the necessary controls. This type of fall detector seems to be
getting more popular nowadays.

People usually slip and fall in bathrooms, or in the shower. For this reason a good fall
detector should be waterproof. It should not be necessary to remove the detector during a
shower or a bath.

Any mobile device runs on batteries, and a fall detector is no exception. A device in which
the battery lasts for a long time, and is easy to change/charge should be preferred. Also,
the device should start giving a noticeable warning about low battery early and not at the
last minute.

Not all medical emergencies involve falling. When necessary it should be possible to
trigger an emergency alert by simply pressing a button on the device. In a similar fashion it
should be possible to cancel an alert. Even though the activity tracking technology is very
accurate, mistakes can happen. So the ability to cancel an alert can prevent an
embarrassing situation.

Another feature to check is the type of communication system used by the device. If it is
meant only for indoor use, the detector can connect with the fixed line telephone system or
an indoor wifi. For outdoor use a device with cellular network access will be better.
However, such a system may require subscription to a mobile service provider. Devices
meant for outdoor use will usually contain a built-in GPS system so that assistance can be
rushed to the right place.

With increased longevity, people are staying active well into the more mature years.
However, longevity does not necessarily imply better health, and old age problems may
still persist. It is good to have solutions like these, that let one stay safe without
compromising on their active lifestyle.