Mapping the anatomy of a fall [INFOGRAPHIC]
"I think most of us with aging parents go through this...You try to reason with them, and they just don’t want to accept that they are in mortal danger if they have an injurious fall when they’re on their own. They don’t realize that deep inside their bodies, they are aging, and that when they fall alone in their house, it’s likely to be catastrophic if they don’t get help in a timely manner."
~Terrence Murphy, Assistant Professor in Geriatrics, Yale School of Medicine, featured in NY Times article "Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation"
The challenge of stopping falls—in the home, outdoors, long-term care facilities, and the hospital—is a complex one. Unfortunately, coupled with dementia/Alzheimer's, falls quietly remain one of the deadliest and costliest challenges of our time.
There has been a lot of hype circulating around next-generation fall detection systems that attempt to identify falls when they happen and communicate these events to caregivers. To the degree that timely, accurate episode detection can speed up post-operative recovery time and improve future episode prediction, these systems have considerable value. But single-episode detection on its own is insufficient to stop falls from happening.
Below we introduce a host of factors that should be considered in targeting fall prevention...
Beyond detection, there are mult-factorial opportunities in prevention. The NY Times piece references some of the decisions that The Sequioias, a CCRC in San Francisco, and Hebrew SeniorLife, a senior housing organization near Boston, have implemented to reduce risk factors in their facilities. A sample of their initiatives include:
- "Valet parking" of walkers/assistive devices during meal time to reduce trips to the meal line
- Placing white stripes on carpeted stairs and introducing color-contrasted toilet seats for people with impaired vision
- Heavy investments in sidewalk paving and guardrails in and around the facilities
- Installing energy-absorbing flooring in facility bathrooms to reduce fall impact and, namely, incidence of hip fractures
- Exercise classes focused on retaining and improving muscle strength and balance
The 360-degree relationship between environmental factors, behavioral factors, health and disease factors, and falls is still poorly understood. Mapping the anatomy of a fall requires longitudinal, multi-factorial assessment of these aspects of daily living.
Although QMedic does not currently offer fall detection or prevention systems, accounting for holistic factors described here are top of mind for us as we evaluate solutions for detecting and predicting falls.