What it is
Recently a few
companies have introduced medical alert systems with fall detection technology
built in to their wearable help buttons.
While this technology seems promising in cases where an individual falls and
loses consciousness before pressing the help button, there are some limitations
and concerns around this technology that should be understood before asking
seniors to use fall detection products.
How it Works
Fall detectors work by measuring the body's
acceleration and position, using accelerometers and gyroscopes. For example,
the Philips Lifeline with AutoAlert system uses multiple accelerometers and
pressure sensors to continually monitor the person's movements while wearing
their pendant-style device.
Negative Factors of Fall Detection
Cell phones and notebook PCs have used
gyroscopes and accelerometers for a few years to shut down a device in case it
is dropped or knocked off a surface. However, use of fall detection technology
in senior alert systems is relatively new and is still being perfected.
Users have complained that fall detection
technology is overly sensitive and can mistake activities of daily living as a
fall. When the system detects a fall, it automatically contacts the emergency
response center. Activities listed below
may create a false alarm:
- Lying down
- Bending over
- Sitting down
Quick/sudden movements that
create false alarms are a particular concern for senior users who may already
be reluctant or embarrassed about wearing a medical alert device. When false alarms occur, the senior may
refuse to continue using the device.
Most medical alert
systems offer either a bracelet or necklace style button. When choosing fall detection technology you
are limited to the necklace style button in order for the accelerometers and
gyroscopes to track movement properly.
Additionally, the technology cannot detect all
falls. Philips Lifeline Systems claims to have a 95% fall detection accuracy
rate. The company further states, "AutoAlert does not detect 100% of
falls. If able, you should always press your button when you need help." Since
fall detection technology works by sensing quick movements, the device will not
be able to detect a “slow fall.” This means slipping off a chair or bed will
not be recognized as a fall and the emergency response center will not be