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How Wearable Fall Alert Systems For Seniors Work

SafeGuardian Fall Alert Systems + SOS Medical Alarms

Falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide after road traffic injuries. Each year, 37.3 million falls are severe enough to require medical attention, while an estimated 684,000 individuals die from falls. Adults older than 60 suffer the highest number of fatal falls. Fall alert devices are increasingly helping to save lives and improve safety.

Key takeaways:Falls are the second leading cause of unintentional deaths from injury worldwide after road traffic injuries.
  • Individuals with impaired vision, deafness, living alone, and other medical conditions are particularly vulnerable to fall-related injuries and death.
  • Fall alert devices for seniors have become increasingly popular in recent years. These devices use sensors to identify falls and notify family members or caregivers for help.
  • The accuracy of fall alert devices is not 100%, and false alarms can occur. However, manufacturers have developed ways to analyze sensor data and improve accuracy over time.
  • Factors to consider when purchasing a fall alert device include cost, features, and highly-rated devices, such as medical alert devices, smartwatches, home monitoring systems, and GPS tracking.

What is a fall alert system?

Fall alert devices identify when a person has fallen and notify someone for help, such as a family member, friend, or emergency services provider. These devices have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their potential to save lives and improve safety, especially for elderly individuals or those with medical conditions that place them at risk of falling.

How do fall alert devices work?

Most fall alert devices use sensors to identify falls and other motion-related events. Some types of sensors commonly used include:

  • Accelerometers. These sensors measure movement, direction, and acceleration changes and can identify sudden actions such as a fall.
  • Gyroscopes. These sensors track orientation changes, including when the user is in a horizontal position that could indicate a fall.
  • Barometers. Changes in altitude or air pressure are monitored to detect when someone has fallen from a high place, such as a stairway.
  • Infrared sensors. These monitor room activity and detect when an occupant has fallen or is in distress.
  • Pressure sensors. These sensors detect changes in pressure on a bed or chair and alarm when a person has fallen out of bed or from a chair.
  • Camera sensors. Room activity is monitored and and falls or other motion-related events can be detected.

The most common fall alert devices use one or more sensors to identify falls and other events. When the device detects a fall, it delivers an audible alert or vibrates to confirm that an incident has occurred. If the individual is conscious and can respond, they can press a button to cancel the alert. If the alert is not canceled, the device will notify a designated emergency contact, such as a family member or healthcare provider.

Who should use fall alert devices?

Fall alert devices can be valuable for anyone at risk of falling. The devices are especially beneficial for older adults, children, and those with medical conditions such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes. Individuals with sensory disabilities can find their balance, coordination, and depth perception impacted, heightening the risk of falls. Athletes and sports participants are at a high risk of falling during matches and practice activities, as are people living alone.

Are fall alert devices accurate?

The majority of fall alert devices are less than 100% accurate, and false alarms can occur. One challenge is distinguishing between a fall and other types of movement or activity. For example, a sudden jolt or impact could be mistaken for a fall, or a person could accidentally trigger the device by pressing a button or making sudden movements.

To improve the accuracy of these devices, manufacturers have developed algorithms and machine learning models that analyze sensor data to identify patterns of movement that are characteristic of falls. These algorithms are trained on large datasets of fall-related sensor data to improve their accuracy over time.

Pros and cons of fall alert devices

Several types of devices alert emergency services or designated contacts in the event of a fall, potentially saving lives. Their use provides peace of mind for individuals and their loved ones and can encourage individuals to seek medical attention after a fall, even if they feel fine. On the other hand, false alarms can be problematic and lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety for the individual and their loved ones. In addition, the devices are generally not inexpensive, and some require ongoing fees for monitoring services. Some fall alert devices aren’t comfortable or easy to wear, leading to low compliance among users.

What to consider before purchasing a fall alert device

When deciding whether to invest in a fall alert device, there are some factors you should consider.

The cost of fall alert devices

The cost of fall alert devices can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the type of device you choose and its features. Some devices may have a one-time purchase cost, while others may require a monthly subscription. Monitoring services could also require a fee, and you may experience ongoing costs associated with device maintenance.

Convenient features found in fall alert devices

Fall alert device models vary widely, and choosing one offering features that meet your needs is essential. For example, some devices may only detect obvious falls, while others offer GPS tracking, SOS help alerts, fall alerts with no monthly fee, automatic fall alert, or the ability to call family members in addition to emergency services.

Best fall alert devices: What’s on the market?

Multiple fall detection devices are now available, each with unique features and capabilities. Some of the best fall-detection devices include:

  • Medical Alert Devices. These include wearable fall alert devices that can be activated during a fall or other emergency. The devices typically rely on a button or pendant that the user presses to summon help. Some medical alert devices send alerts to designated caregivers after detecting a fall.
  • Smartwatches. These products often have built-in features that use accelerometers and gyroscopes to identify sudden movements indicating a fall. These fall alert smartwatches also send alerts when a fall is detected. The reported accuracy rates of smartwatches vary, but studies have found them to have detection rates of 80–90%.
  • Home Monitoring Systems. Some smart home systems incorporate elderly fall detection features using cameras and motion sensors and send alerts to caregivers or emergency services. However, the accuracy of these systems is considered low, with studies reporting false positives and missed detections.
  • GPS Tracking Devices. Several GPS tracking devices also incorporate fall detection technology. These wearables provide real-time location tracking and emergency assistance. Studies have shown these devices have detection rates averaging 70–90%

The accuracy of any fall alert device varies depending on the specific product and the person wearing it.

Fall alert devices are vital tools for preventing injuries and ensuring the safety of vulnerable individuals. Some fall alert devices call family members, caregivers, or emergency services, leading to faster response times and better outcomes. The use of these devices also provides peace of mind and greater independence for at-risk populations. By considering the accuracy, cost, and features, individuals and caregivers can choose the best device to meet their needs and improve their safety.

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