Brenda Lyle – Florida Today
Q: I live alone. What happens if I fall?
A: Year after year, survey results from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) conclude that 90% of seniors want to “age in place” in their own homes. The popular sentiment is at odds with another statistic, however: falls in the home are a leading cause of injury and death to people over the age of 65. So can seniors safely age in place? Technology, human caregivers, or a combination of both may provide the answer.
I’ve fallen and I can’t get up
One particularly familiar type of technology is the Personal Emergency Response System or “PERS”. These home medical alert systems were developed in Germany in the early 1970s, with the vision of assisting elderly and disabled people that lived alone. Since 1975, American versions of these devices have undergone numerous changes and continued to modernize. Beginning in 1987, television commercials were used to great effect to let the public know about the availability of PERS.
Today, you can wear your PERS as a pendant, a watch, or as a sensor-based system in your home. Numerous companies offer PERS, most with a base station compatible with the alert device of your choice. Base stations attached to an interactive monitoring system allow the user to contact an attendant with the push of a button on their device. Some systems can even automatically detect a fall!
There’s an APP for that
Another technology option is the Lockhart Monitor application for iPhones. Different from the PERS, the free Lockhart Monitor app constantly assesses the gait and posture stability of the person carrying the phone to determine if a fall might be imminent. It then sends an alert by text message to the person carrying the phone, or their caregiver. The important accumulated data can also be exported for researchers or physicians.
For many seniors, relying on a real human being is preferable to even the best technology. Depending on the need, a private duty caregiver or a Certified Care Manager can be hired. A caregiver ensures the safety of their charge and is available from four to 24 hours a day. A certified care manger assesses the safety of a senior’s situation inside the home, and creates a care plan with recommendations for their well-being. Care Managers are also available in case of emergency and keep family members informed.
While no method is foolproof, fall prevention and access to help can help seniors age in place more confidently. For information about PERS, in-home caregivers or care management, contact One Senior Place.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to AskOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.
Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.