Ultimate Guide to Fall Alarms
Updated: Sep 8
For the elderly, especially those with conditions like dementia, fall detection alarms serve as a lifeline. They offer assistance, an increased sense of security, and most importantly, allow seniors to feel safe while maintaining their independence.
For caregivers, these fall detection devices offer an invaluable peace of mind, knowing they can always be there when needed the most.
What is a fall alarm?
A fall detection alarm for an elderly person is a device or system designed to detect and notify family caregivers or medical personnel when an elderly individual has taken a fall.
Falls can pose a significant risk to the health and well-being of older adults, so early detection and intervention are crucial. Research tells us a fall detection strategy can be particularly effective.
These alarms can be especially important for seniors who live alone or those who may be more prone to falls due to certain medical conditions.
Manual fall alarms vs automatic fall detection alarms
In Australia, there are 2 types of fall detection devices: Manual and automatic. Let's take a look at the differences between the two.
Manual fall alarms
These alarms require the wearer to press a button to activate them. This is a good option for seniors who are still able to press a button, but it can be difficult for seniors who are injured or incapacitated after a fall.
Automatic fall detection alarms
These alarms detect falls automatically, without the wearer having to press a button. This is a good option for seniors who are at risk of falling and may not be able to press a button after a fall.
Automatic fall detection alarms use a variety of sensors to detect falls, including:
Accelerometers: These sensors measure the change in speed and direction of the wearer's movement. When a fall is detected, the accelerometers will send an alert to the fall detection alarm.
Gyroscopes: These sensors measure the rotation of the wearer's body. When a fall is detected, the gyroscopes will send an alert to the fall detection alarm.
Impact sensors: These sensors detect sudden changes in pressure, such as when a person falls to the ground. When an impact sensor is triggered, it will send an alert to the fall detection alarm.
Once a fall is detected, the alarm will sound, vibrate, or send an alert to a monitoring centre.
The monitoring centre will then contact the wearer or their emergency contacts to get help.
Some devices offer a grace period after detection where the wearer can confirm whether they're okay or need assistance. If the wearer indicates they're okay, the alert is cancelled. If they do not respond or indicate they need help, the alert process continues.
Manual fall alarms vs automatic fall alarms
Manual Fall Alarms
User Control: The individual decides when to trigger the alarm, ensuring it's only used in actual emergencies.
Fewer False Alarms: Since the user activates it, there's less chance of the system mistakenly interpreting other activities as falls.
Simplicity: They're generally easier to understand and use, especially for older adults who might be wary of technology.
Battery Life: Without the need for continuous monitoring, some manual devices may have longer battery lives.
Cost: They can be more affordable than some automatic systems because of their simpler design.
Requires Conscious Effort: If the person is unconscious or too injured after a fall, they might not be able to activate the alarm.
Delayed Alerts: There might be a delay in alerting caregivers if the individual hesitates before pressing the button.
Forgetfulness: Cognitive impairments might lead the person to forget how to use the manual alarm or that they even have it.
Physical Limitations: If the individual is paralyzed or immobilized due to the fall, reaching and activating the device might be challenging.
Automatic Fall Alarms
Immediate Detection: They can detect a fall as it happens and the automatic alerts allow for faster response times.
Beneficial for Severe Falls: In cases where the person may lose consciousness or is severely injured, the falls detector system will still send an alert.
Passive Monitoring: The user doesn't have to remember to activate it, which can be helpful for those with cognitive impairments.
Additional Features: Many automatic alarms come with added features like location tracking, activity monitoring, and health data collection.
False Alarms: These systems can sometimes misinterpret certain activities (like sitting down quickly) as falls, leading to unnecessary alerts.
Battery Consumption: Continuous monitoring might drain the battery faster, requiring more frequent charging or battery replacements.
Complexity: More sophisticated systems might be harder for some users to understand or manage.
Cost: Advanced automatic fall alarms with multiple features can be more expensive than their manual counterparts.
Potential Privacy Concerns: Continuous monitoring can raise privacy issues, especially if the device collects and transmits personal data.
When choosing between manual and automatic fall alarms, consider the specific needs, abilities, and preferences of the user, as well as the environment in which they live. The goal is to ensure their safety while preserving their dignity and independence.
Falls alarm: Different types and how to choose
Automatic and Manual alert options available
Many wearable devices, often considered as a type of personal alarm, come equipped with sensors to automatically detect falls. However, they often also feature a manual help button that the wearer can press if they need timely assistance but haven't necessarily fallen. For example, a pendant, acting as a personal alarm, might detect a rapid change in orientation signaling a fall (automatic) but also have a button for manual alerts.
Personal Paging System
This type of alarm system, like the Smart Caregiver Two Call Buttons and Pager Kit for the Elderly is extremely practical for carers who live with their elderly loved one or carers in nursing homes. If a fall or emergency occurs, the pager - which is worn - can be pressed and they send a wireless signal to the caregiver's pager, alerting them that assistance is required.
Smart Home Systems
Smart home systems typically use sensors (like floor sensors or cameras) to automatically detect falls or unusual activity patterns. They aren't manually activated by the user when a fall occurs; instead, they continuously monitor for potential incidents and automatically send an alert.
Automatic and Manual alert options available
These apps, which can transform smartphones into personal alarms, have a manual SOS feature, allowing the user to send out an alert if they feel unsafe or need help. These personal alarms can be used in the case of a bad fall or any emergency.
When choosing a personal alarm system for fall detection, it's essential to understand these distinctions and consider which type (manual, automatic, or both) best fits the needs of the individual in question.
Benefits of using a senior fall alarm and personal alarm
Peace of mind: Seniors and their caregivers can have peace of mind knowing that a fall detection device is a lifeline to help is available in the event of a fall, especially for those with limited mobility.
Prevention of injuries: Fall alarms can help to prevent injuries by alerting someone to a fall before the wearer is able to get up.
Prompt medical attention: Fall detection can help to ensure that seniors receive prompt medical attention if they need it.
Increased independence: Fall alarms can help seniors to maintain their independence by allowing them to live independently at home without fear of falling.
What to consider when buying a fall detection alarm in Australia
If you're a caregiver is considering fall alarms in Australia for an elderly or vulnerable person, there are several things to consider.
Coverage and Connectivity
Ensure the device works effectively in the area where the individual resides. In some remote areas, signal connectivity might be an issue. Devices that rely on mobile networks should be compatible with local service providers.
Costs and Subsidies
Fall alarms can vary in price. However, some governments or insurance providers might offer subsidies or support programs for elderly or disabled individuals requiring such devices. It's worth investigating whether the individual qualifies for any financial assistance.
Some fall alarms come with a 24/7 monitoring service. It's important to select a reliable monitoring center that is familiar with local emergency protocols.
Battery Life and Maintenance
Opt for a device with a long battery life and straightforward maintenance, especially if you're in an area without easy access to service centers.
Durability and Resistance
Depending on the climate and environment, devices should be robust, water-resistant, and suited for specific conditions.
Local Reviews and Recommendations
Look for reviews from other caregivers or users. This can provide insights into the device's performance and help inform your decision.
Training and Usability
Some users might be wary or unfamiliar with technology. Choose devices that are user-friendly and come with thorough training or guides.
Emergency Response Time
Understand how quickly emergency services can reach the individual in case of a fall, especially if they're in a remote or hard-to-reach area.
Return and Warranty Policies
Ensure the fall alarm has a robust warranty and return policy. Given the critical nature of these devices, it's crucial to be able to replace or repair them swiftly if they malfunction.
Fall detection devices can prevent a lifechanging bad fall
The consequences of falls can be profound and wide-ranging. Here are some of the impacts of falls on the elderly in Australia:
The most immediate impact of a fall is the physical injury. This can range from minor bruises or sprains to more serious injuries like fractures. The most common fractures due to falls include hip, wrist, arm, and ankle fractures.
Many falls result in hospital admissions. In Australia, falls are a leading cause of injury-related hospitalisation for older individuals.
Even if the initial injuries from a fall heal, the elderly might continue to experience chronic pain, limiting their mobility and overall quality of life.
Loss of Independence
Following a fall, many elderly individuals become fearful of falling again. This fear can lead to decreased mobility, loss of confidence, and reluctance to engage in daily activities. They might become more dependent on caregivers or consider moving to aged-care facilities.
Decreased Quality of Life
The psychological impact, combined with physical injuries, can significantly reduce an individual's quality of life and independent living. They might avoid social activities, leading to feelings of isolation and depression.
Falls are a significant cause of injury-related deaths among the elderly. Complications from injuries, especially hip fractures, can lead to fatal outcomes.
The cost of treating fall-related injuries is substantial. This includes direct medical costs for hospitalisation, surgeries, and rehabilitation, as well as indirect costs related to lost productivity or the need for long-term care.
Complications from Extended Immobility
If an elderly individual is bedridden due to fall-related injuries, they might face further health complications. These can include bedsores, muscle atrophy, joint contractures, and respiratory or cardiovascular issues.
Sometimes, a fall can lead to changes in medication, either because the medications contributed to the fall (e.g., drugs that cause dizziness) or because new medications are needed to treat fall-related injuries. These changes can have side effects or interact with other drugs the person is taking.
This article is not sponsored, but it does include affiliate links. We do not include links to products solely for the purpose of earning a commission. Our product suggestions are provided based on our genuine opinions.
Click here to subscribe to our newsletter to receive our healthy living tips for seniors and caregivers. Fall prevention, self-care, mobility, and independence.
The Adaptive Clothing Australia Team