The 3 Questions Every Caregiver Should Ask About Elderly Fall Detection

January 11, 2024

As family caregivers, our top priority is ensuring the safety and well-being of our elderly loved ones. One of the greatest concerns we have is the risk of elderly falls. And for good reason. The data are alarming – the CDC reports that injuries and deaths from elderly falls have been steadily increasing since 2012.

Residents of assisted living facilities aren’t immune to falls either. In this analysis of data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics, researchers L Harris-Kojetin and M Sengupta report, “In 2016, 22% of current RCC [Residential Care Community] residents had a fall in the prior 90 days, representing 175,000 RCC residents in the United States; in 20% of RCCs, more than one-quarter of residents had a fall.” 

Fall prevention, fall monitoring, fall detecting, and fall reporting technologies have become increasingly popular as a means to mitigate this risk.

As a caregiver considering technology to help minimize risk, it’s important to make an informed decision based on the specific needs of your loved one. This guide will help you to understand the different options available for elderly falls technology, so you can choose the best solution for your family.

Question 1:  Can my loved one manage the maintenance, logistics, and 100% compliance requirement of a wearable device?

The first question to ask yourself is whether it’s reasonable to expect your loved one to be self-reliant before, during, and after an emergency situation. This question is critical as the most common solution families reach for when it comes to elderly falls is a Personal Emergency Response System [PERS], most often worn on the body as a pendant or on the wrist as a bracelet. While most devices have a button that the user must proactively push in an emergency, some devices have a built in accelerometer or gyroscope designed to react to the physics of a fall and notify a call center if a fall is detected.

Can your older adult be relied upon to keep their device charged? Will your older adult choose to wear their device all the time – in the shower, leaving bed for a quick bathroom visit, or to the living room to retrieve a book? Published research reports that many users either forget to wear or choose not to wear their pendant at times when they are at the highest risk of falling, like at night in the bathroom or in bedroom. Other reasons an older adult may choose not to leave behind their wearable fall detector is that they can be extra sensitive, generating false alarms that may result in “alarm fatigue” that discourages a user from wearing the device all the time.

For wearable devices that require an older adult to self-activate their device in an emergency, there is research to suggest many people either do not, or cannot push the button. As caregivers, we need to be sure that our overwhelmed, frightened, and potentially injured loved one will be able to summon the cognitive and physical wherewithal to find and push the button. Especially for older adults on a cognitive journey, a family caregiver has to be realistic about a loved one’s ability to exercise good judgment under extreme stress.

For some older adults, vanity and pride can get in the way of wearable efficacy. Many don’t want to be perceived as needy, old, or a burden, even to the strangers on the other end of the call button. Some believe that if they push that button, their family caregivers will insist on a new living arrangement, perhaps risking their independence or aging at home plan. They sometimes agree to own the device simply to appease their family.

The most important question for a caregiver is the one they ask themselves – am I realistic about the maintenance, logistics, and compliance required of a wearable elderly fall device for my loved one? Or is it merely giving me a dangerous, false sense of security?

If you cannot depend on your older adult to be compliant with no exceptions, consider options that require NO interaction or compliance from your older adult, often called “Passive Monitoring” systems.

Question 2: Does a wall-mounted elderly fall detection system leave too many blind spots?

A category of fall monitoring and detection devices historically used in nursing homes and facilities is now available to consumer caregivers. In institutional settings, this device is mounted on the wall of a patient’s room and is used as one layer of detection that typically includes bed alarms, pressure alarms under the floor, and often cameras to compensate for reduced staffing levels, especially at night.

So the answer to the question is that like other solutions, wall-mounted fall detectors, under controlled conditions, can work. For caregivers with loved ones aging in place independently in their own home, it’s important to note that a residential environment is nothing like the sparsely furnished, cookie cutter setting of a facility that makes these devices practical. In other words, a loved one’s home is not an institution.

Caregiver consumers should understand whether the underlying signal technology will work in a typical multi-room, multi-level home. Technology on the market today may not reach behind furniture, around corners, or through walls, leaving numerous “blind spots” where a fall can occur but miss detection. That narrow space between the bed and the wall? The eating alcove in the kitchen? And most importantly, the stairs? These are places where older adults may have fallen, yet may be beyond the monitored zone.

Typically these systems require AC power, which means an installation location must be near an outlet, limiting flexibility and “reach” of the system. Installation and setup require technical proficiency, so caregivers may have to hire a professional to get up and running. And lastly, while consumer prices for these devices have been coming down, the sheer number of units required for a typical residence and the associated subscription fees, sometimes separate for detection and monitoring, can be cost-prohibitive for families.

For a caregiver considering a wall mounted fall detector, they should ask themselves if they can live with the risks associated with blind spots – whether at stairs, in unmonitored rooms, areas a signal cannot reach, spaces without power – and consider both the up front and ongoing costs associated with elderly fall detectors. 

Question 3: Is there a better solution to elderly falls?

Yes! Why wait until a loved one has suffered a fall? You can use technology to help discourage the conditions that lead to falls. We all know the value of home modifications like grab bars, handrails, and stairlifts. Improving gait, balance, and vision also help. But you may not know about a technology called a remote elderly monitor that can help you discover and address the hidden behaviors that put your loved one at risk – risk of many safety issues, not just falls – when they’re home alone.

envoyatHome’s remote elderly monitoring system transforms simple motion sensor data into clinically relevant human behavior while it’s happening – behavior that can represent an individual in distress. Some examples of risky behaviors that envoyatHome discovers are dangerous nighttime wandering, unusually long or frequent bathroom visits that might be indicative of distress, and missed morning wakeup routine you need to know about. envoyatHome notifies a caregiver’s cell phone while the behavior is occurring, giving you, the caregiver, the power.

Addressing risky behavior with medical, safety, or home adaptation interventions gives you the opportunity to lower the risk of an accident, a fall, and an emergency like an elopement. envoyatHome even discovers symptoms of wellness issues like anxiety, insomnia, UTIs, or nutrition/hydration concerns. If your loved one is not where you expect them to be, or immobile, or not out of bed in the morning, or leaving home at an unusual time, you’ll know right away. A fully passive approach like envoyatHome is ideal for caregivers of older adults on a cognitive journey.

You can even bring envoyatHome behavior information to medical appointments to ensure their doctor has all the information to offer quality care.

A remote elderly monitor like envoyatHome overcomes the challenges of both wearables and wall-mounted fall detectors. It’s fully passive, meaning your loved one has nothing to activate, wear, charge, remember, or leave behind. Because the sensors are small, battery powered, and inexpensive, they can be placed almost anywhere and everywhere, virtually eliminating blind spots in otherwise difficult to monitor parts of the home. Staircases, awkwardly shaped rooms, the narrow space between the bed and the wall, even long dark hallways can’t hide from envoyatHome. 

And best of all, envoyatHome is affordable, with a low one time fee for equipment and a no contract, fully cancelable monthly subscription. 

Yes there is a better solution for elderly safety. Don’t settle for buttons and blind spots. Check out the envoyatHome elderly remote monitor today.

About envoyatHome

envoyatHome is committed to caregivers of older adults aging in place. Featured in Kiplinger, Fortune, National Council on Aging, and aginginplace.org, envoyatHome is a solution for caregivers that delivers full time, affordable senior care for the digital age. You can reach us at info@envoyathome.com or 856.681.0076.

Let's Get Started

Contact envoyatHome Today

Contact Us

Contact envoyatHome

LEarn More

Additional Posts To Explore