What Can You Do to Help Your Independent Elderly When They Fall?

May 11, 2021

If your senior parent(s) are aging in place and you're away from them, the thought of your parents' falling and injuring themselves may occupy your mind. With age, our bones become weak and more susceptible to breaking. Hip, pelvis or forearm fractures often necessitate surgery and full recovery can take as long as a year, even longer.

After a major injury, seniors may not return to their former independence and function. They may not move as well as they used to and need to take more care of themselves to minimize chances of falling again. Hiring a part-time caregiver will help but you'll no doubt want to monitor your parents' remotely and ensure that they get help quickly in the event of a fall.

Fortunately, the medical alert systems market has grown in recent years and offers different types of in-home and on-the-go systems for emergency protection, fall detection, medication monitoring and remote monitoring. The products charge a start-up fee and monthly fees. Total costs depend on the product and plan you purchase. Here's a look at how medical alert and remote monitoring can be invaluable for your elderly.

In-home medical alert systems

As their name suggests, medical alert systems are designed to notify emergency assistance providers to falls sustained in the house and its vicinity. They comprise a base station installed in the senior's home and a wearable device (pendant or wristband). The system uses the senior's landline or cellular service to connect to a monitoring station manned by trained agents who dispatch emergency responders to the senior's location.

Life Alert ® is among the oldest in-home medical alert systems. You may be familiar with the company and the famous line from its television commercial - "I've fallen, and I can't get up!" Seniors signing up to Life Alert ® use their wearable or the help button installed in their home to call the company's call center. Or they press the call button on the Life Alert ® app they've downloaded on their mobile phone.

Life Alert ® is a wearer-activated medical alert solution. That means your parent receives help if they activate their help button and explain their situation to the company's call center agent. In case they lose their consciousness after falling or fall because of it, the help button does not automatically place a call to the call center.

Several other medical alert systems for the elderly address this limitation by including fall detection as a feature. Read on to understand how a fall detection system for seniors works.

Fall detection systems for automatic calls to emergency medical responders

A fall detection system uses accelerometers, a type of electronic sensor that determines a person's position and monitors their movement without recording images or sounds. Your mobile phone has an accelerometer that identifies the device's orientation (landscape or portrait). Your laptop also has an accelerometer that detects a sudden fall and turns off the hard drive to protect it when your laptop drops to the ground. The accelerometer in home video game consoles detect motion in a three dimensional space, recognizing players' movements and poses.

Fall detection systems detect the position your elderly parent is in, how fast they're moving and even their gait, that is whether they're walking smoothly or haltingly. They’re able to identify that your senior has fallen to the ground and programmed to place a help call to the company's call center.

Medical alert systems offering this feature add an extra layer of emergency protection. If your elderly parent isn't able to press the help button, they can enjoy peace of mind knowing they will still receive the assistance they need. No doubt it will come as a relief to you too.

When choosing a medical alert system with fall detection, consider the following:

• Is fall detection offered as a standard or optional feature? It is worth paying an extra $10 or $15 on top of your monthly fee.
• Does the pendant stick out oddly or can it be incorporated into a necklace and pass off as jewelry? Many seniors are embarrassed to walk around wearing a large pendant around their neck.
• Medical alert wristbands should fit snugly and comfortably on your senior’s wrist. They should also be waterproof and work properly when your senior needs to wear them in the bath or shower.
• Think twice about medical alert systems that lock your senior in a long contract and have an inflexible cancellation policy. With month-to-month payments, you can discontinue your plan and switch to a better one in a hassle-free manner.

Fall detection systems are evolving to enable caregivers to remotely monitor their elderly's activities on their mobile phone. Their sophisticated design is based on sensor-powered motion detection, doing away with the need to wear pendants or wristbands. SentryTell is among the latest monitoring systems to provide caregivers vital information on their parents' activities.

SentryTell provides a wealth of information on your seniors' activity levels

Medical alert systems may or may not have an app for caregivers to receive notifications on their senior's fall incident. SentryTell keeps you in the loop about your parent's daily activity levels. SentryTell, for example, notifies you of any unusual activity from the baseline so you can intervene in an informed way.

A neat feature of SentryTell is ‘Where Are They’ telling you how active your parent has been in the last three hours, one hour or fifteen minutes. You can also view information on your parent's most recent activities so you know where they've been. Trend lines provide a simple visualization of how your senior's activity has changed over time.

The risk of falling increases with age. Seniors may be exposed to risk factors - such as using staircases, different types of flooring in the home, sloped yards, stepping in the bathtub to use the shower and so on. Seniors in good physical health will also do well to use a remote monitoring, fall detection or medical alert system. Review your options and choose the technology that works best to enhance your senior's safety.