Like most aspects of health care, technology has taken a greater role in falls prevention and detection. Examples include wearable motion-detectors, alarms, sensors, microphones, and cameras.
• Fall detection video reviews.
• Virtual bed/chair rails based on motion-detection software that enables advance notice of a person’s intent to rise.
• Motion-detection monitors in rooms that identify
patients who are restless and moving more or moving less. As a result, staff can proactively intervene.
• Wearable devices that detect and report changes in gait, activity, and walking speed.
• Insole sensors that relay real-time information about walking patterns, balance, and sway.
• Multi-sensor smart wearable belts that detect impending falls and deploy “airbags” on the hips to cushion falls. These also offer functions such as sending alert notifications to caregivers.
• Wireless avatars that check in several times per day to confirm patient well-being.
• Voice-activated devices such as Alexa or Siri that can play music, make phone calls, and perform other functions that can keep residents engaged and less likely to wander inappropriately.
• Motion-activated lights and lighting around doorframes to help people navigate safely at night.

“One positive to come out of the COVID pandemic is a growing appreciation of technology as care tools. Telemedicine has become invaluable in recent months, and practitioners can use these interactions to watch a resident walk and move their arms, ask about pain, and talk about how they can safely get more exercise,” says Arif Hussain, DO, a physiatrist with Chicago-based Community Physicians.

At the same time, Kevin O’Neil, MD, CMD, with Affinity Living Group, stresses the need to remember the value of low-tech tools, such as low beds, hip protectors, and devices such as canes and walkers, in helping to reduce falls and fall-related injuries. These might be especially valuable in the coming months, he says, as residents become more active and work on regaining strength and mobility.