15 Jun 2019 The Case for Automatic Fall Detection – A True Story
Tony Valentino, GoFind Inc.
It was a typical Wednesday for my 99 year old father. His caregiver picked him up to run his weekly errands – grocery shopping, pharmacy, post office and bank. On his way to the bank, he lost consciousness and fell face first onto the sidewalk. Luckily, his caregiver was there to call 911 as not one other person walking by stopped to render aid.
In the hospital, the doctors stabilized him, treated his bruises and stitched the wound over his eye that opened up when he hit the sidewalk. The cardiologist determined that he needed a pacemaker because his blood pressure was sky high and his heart rate was around 47. This combination is what caused him to lose consciousness. Rushing him to the hospital saved his life. Who knows what would have happened if the caregiver was not present to immediately call 911 because assistance was not coming from any of the passersby.
After several days in the hospital, he was released to return home (pacemaker installation has come a long way and is now almost an outpatient procedure). He was set up with an in-home visiting nurse and physical therapist to aid in his recovery. During one of the nurse’s visits it came out that this was not the first time such an incident occurred. It turns out that over the previous 6 months, it had happened 2 other times. The nurse suggested that he get a medical alert device, but I responded that such a device would not have done any good since in this and previous falls, he was unconscious and unable to press the button to summon help. What he really needed was a device that automatically detected falls and automatically summoned assistance without user intervention. In addition, because my sister and I live remote from him (he is in New Jersey, my sister lives in Maryland, and I live in Texas), it would have been good to have received the notification of a serious fall immediately rather than wait to be notified that something had happened. My mother, who is 97, was in no condition to make the call to either me or my sister and we had to be notified by her neighbor who, luckily, had been visiting when the hospital called my mother. An automatic fall detection device can be set up not only to summon first responder assistance, but also notify key family members, friends and neighbors so they could swing into action.
My parents are fiercely independent and the thought of assisted living and nursing homes are abhorrent to them (my mom is still mad she can no longer drive). A device such as the NudgeR (in development) or other devices also in development is what is needed to provide life-saving assistance, immediate family notification and provide a means for seniors to live longer in their homes. My dad was lucky this time. Next time, who knows?