New Technology Protects Older Loved Ones from Falls

One in three older Americans falls every year, making falls the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people age 65 or older. Falls can result in hip fractures, broken bones, and head injuries and significant loss of independence. Those over age 75 who fall are more than four times more likely to be admitted to a skilled nursing facility. The good news about falls is that most of them can be prevented, especially with new technology designed to help detect them.

Recently, University of Utah electrical engineers, Brad Mager and Neal Patwari, developed a network of wireless sensors that can detect a person falling. This monitoring technology could be linked to a service that would call emergency help for a loved one without requiring him or her to wear a monitoring device. Most fall-detection devices require the person to push a button to call for help. However, these devices must be worn at all times and often fail because the person simply forgot to put on his or her device, or forgets to (or is unable to) push the button after falling.

Similar to those used in home wireless networks, the sensors are placed around the perimeter of a room at two heights that correspond to someone standing or lying down, using two-levels of radio-frequency. As each sensor transmits to another, anyone standing or falling inside the network alters the path of signals sent between each pair of sensors, and this is how falls are detected. An alert is then sent to a caregiver and/or emergency help. The system, which was presented Sept. 10 at a meeting of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is still in the early stages. Patwari hopes to develop it into a commercial product through his start-up company, Xandem Technology.

In addition to using technology to detect falls, below are some steps that can be taken by you and your loved ones to prevent them:

  • Discuss your loved ones’ concerns and health conditions with their health care provider. Remind your loved ones to take advantage of all the preventive benefits now offered under Medicare, such as the annual wellness visit.
  • Ask about their last eye checkup: If your older loved ones wear glasses or contact lenses, make sure they have a current prescription and they’re using the glasses/contacts as advised by their eye doctor.
  • Notice if they’re holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when walking or if they appear to have difficulty walking or arising from a chair: These are all signs that it might be time to see a physical therapist or it might be time for a cane or a walker.
  • Talk about their medications: If your older loved ones are having a hard time keeping track of medicines or are experiencing side effects, encourage them to discuss their concerns with their doctor and pharmacist.
  • Do a walk-through safety assessment of their home: There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make a home safer, including increasing lighting, making sure stair rails are secure and installing grab bars in the shower/tub. Read our recent blog post, titled “Remodel or Relocate” for more details. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers a home assessment checklist.

When taking these preventative measures isn’t enough, assisted living or nursing home care may be needed your loved one. Nursing homes in Fairfax, Virginia and the rest of Northern Virginia can cost as much as $144,000 per year, while Fredericksburg, Virginia nursing homes and nursing homes in and the rest of Virginia can cost as much as $105,000 per year.

The Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. handles Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection, which is the process of protecting you or your loved ones from having to go broke to pay for nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you or your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Learn more at The Fairfax Medicaid and Fredericksburg Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. website. Call 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

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