Huntsville, AL- March, 2011 – What if there’s a fall and nobody’s there to help?
It’s a question millions of American families with aging loved ones ask every day. Seniors prefer to live at home where it’s safe, comfortable and affordable – but someone with the ability to help needs to be close by, just in case. The reality is falls are inevitable, no matter how careful a caregiver is with senior proofing a home. Falls can be caused by everything from uneven floors or throw rugs, to mobility and stability issues, medical conditions and even reactions to medicines.
Whatever the cause, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries to older adults and the statistics are alarming.
- One out of three seniors falls each year.
- 40% of all seniors or 12 million people will fall this year.
- In 2007, 18,000 older Americans died from fall related injuries.
(Source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
In addition to the immediate dangers of seniors falling, such as a broken bone, additional CDC statistics reveal the longer term dangers of a senior falling and remaining on the ground without help.
- If a senior falls and remains on the floor more than four to five hours, he/she could spend up to 18 days in a hospital or rehab facility.
- If a senior remains on the floor overnight after a fall, he/she could spend up to 30 days in a hospital or rehab facility.
(Source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
For years, families have turned to Personal Emergency Response Systems, so-called medical alarms, for help. These pendant devices provide what everyone calls a “panic button” that a senior can press if an accident occurs. Remember the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial. However research now shows in four out of five fall incidents the senior doesn’t push the button, either because they are too stunned or embarrassed, they forget, or they are physically unable.
Armed with a new understanding of the short comings of the panic button alert, medical alarm companies are developing new technologies that will detect falls automatically.
“Health care providers, caregivers and family members need to assess older patients for their fall risk factors, modify their living arrangements and if needed, utilize a medical alert system with automatic fall detection technology,” says Chris Otto, President and CEO of Halo Monitoring. Otto’s company makes the myHalo alarm system, one of the first of a new generation of alarm systems to utilize motion sensors and accelerator technology to constantly measure a person’s movements in relation to height, orientation and acceleration in order to identify a fall. For example, sitting down or reclining on a couch is considered normal activity. A fall, with a sudden change in acceleration, movement and height is considered an abnormal action and the system automatically contacts a call center for emergency help. There is no need for the senior to push a button.
If it all sounds like science fiction, it was when the first medical alarms were introduced. Now it’s science fact. Just ask Robin Sanders bought a myHalo medical alarm system for her 77 year old mother-in-law Elizabeth Madison who lives in Roseville, MN.
“After Elizabeth fell in the basement and almost hit her head we agreed we needed a monitoring device,” said Sanders. “About one month later she again fell in the basement and her husband was upstairs but didn’t know what happened. The medical personnel staffing the call center saw the alert and called the house as well as notified me. We all feel better knowing the system is there.”
“I felt so alone when I fell, it was a real wakeup knowing what can happen,” adds Madison. “I don’t have that fear of falling anymore. Now I feel secure, and while I know the system is supposed to detect a fall, I also know there is a panic button if there is an emergency.”
Besides Halo Monitoring’s myHalo device, which can be worn on a belt clip or around the chest under clothing with a chest strap, monitors with fall detection technology have also been developed by Phillips, maker of Lifeline. The new AutoAlert option is still a pendant-style system but it automatically calls for help.
Wellcore has also unveiled an alert system featuring automatic fall detection and a text-to-speech messaging system. The Wellcore system is worn on a belt clip.
Medical alarm systems are also making the jump to the internet, allowing families and caregivers to remotely monitor a senior’s health and physical activity. The myHalo chest strap model and Wellcore both feature secure web portals to allow family members or designated caregivers the ability to check on an elderly loved ones situation without invading a senior’s privacy.
“While families do all they can to protect their elderly loved ones, the new technology in monitoring systems provides families with additional peace of mind knowing help will be called even if elderly loved ones aren’t able to do it,” adds Otto.
Chris A. Otto has over ten years of engineering design and technology management experience; and has brought over thirty unique technology products to market. He is the cofounder and CEO of Halo Monitoring, a technology healthcare company serving independently living elderly adults. Halo’s flagship product, myHaloTM, is a wearable fall detection and health monitoring system that offers a direct alternative to existing medical alarm systems currently requiring users to press a “panic button.” The myHalo system is unique in that it can detect events automatically, such as a fall, without having to press a button.
Chris cofounded Halo Monitoring after examining the state of tools available for his own mother who was providing care for his grandmother in 2006. Chris had been a pioneer in wireless sensor networks for ambulatory health monitoring; had published a number of related articles in peer reviewed journals and conference proceedings; as well as published a Master’s thesis on this subject. His work has been recognized as a leading effort in the field of Wireless Body Area Networks (WBANs) for ambulatory health monitoring. Halo Monitoring was founded with the mission to utilize wearable technology for human fall detection and the ubiquity of the Internet to engage caregivers with friendly, interactive web-based tools for caring for aging parents.
Before cofounding Halo Monitoring, Chris worked as a senior design engineer for Lewis Innovative Technologies and Adtran, both in the field of voice and data communications. An excellent speaker, Chris recently presented at the National Institutes of Health, Healthcare Unbound, the UCLA Conference on Aging, the ASA East Coast Conference on Aging, the ACM Southeast Conference, and the 3rd IEEE/EMBS International Summer School on Medical Devices and Biosensors. He is the recipient of awards for the advancement of senior wireless technology and the 2009 Technology Innovation Award presented by the Hudson Alpha Institute of Biotechnology.
Chris holds two issued patents and nine pending patents in the fields of ambulatory health monitoring, wireless networks, data communications, and motion signal processing (including human fall detection). He holds a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Engineering from University of Alabama in Huntsville.