Getting help quickly after a fall is just as important as avoiding falls in the first place. Why? Because close to 60% of seniors who don't get help within the first hour of a fall, don't return to living independently. Moreover, lying on the floor for an extended period of time after a fall can lead to complications such as pressure ulcers, hypothermia, dehydration, pneumonia and muscle necrosis.
That's why so many seniors are getting automatic fall detection, an exciting, rapidly evolving technology which recognizes when you've fallen and calls for help even when you can't.
We'll review some of the new and more established fall detection devices in the marketplace, with their benefits, drawbacks and costs. With so many options to choose from, whether it be a pendent, wrist watch, hearing aide, wall mounted device, mobile, home based, monitored or unmonitored system, you're sure to find the right solution for you.
Philips Lifeline GoSafe2
The Philips Lifeline GoSafe2 is an all-in-one mobile medical alert system that is monitored and connected to a central station. It comes with a two way talk speaker phone, GPS locating technology and automatic fall detection called Auto-Alert. It's a light, small sized and easy to use pendent you wear around your neck.
The Philips Lifeline GoSafe2 uses 3 fall detection technologies; an accelerometer, barometric sensor and algorithms. Philips claims it's the most "proven fall technology in the US today."
Perhaps of most importance, the Auto-Alert fall detection technology is endorsed by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), the American Geriatrics Society and the American Physical Therapy Association.
The cost is $49.95 a month for the monitoring, GPS and fall detection plus a one time fee of $99.95 for the device.
We like it for seniors and those who aren't technologically savvy. In our opinion, it's easier to use than a smartwatch, has a nice look to it, and we like the fact that it's monitored.
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The AppleWatch Series 4 comes with a fall detector that can be turned on or off. Like most fall detectors, if it detects a fall, it gives you a chance to call off the alarm, in the event you're ok. However, if you're not ok, it will automatically call 911 and can be programmed to notify family or friends as well.
The AppleWatch Series 4 also multiple fall detection technologies like an accelerometer, gyroscope, barometric sensor and proprietary algorithms.
We believe the AppleWatch Series 4 can be a great fall detection alternative for those "younger" technologically savvy older adults, who would not wear a medical alert device otherwise.
However, we believe it's complexity can make it challenging for older seniors. We also prefer a monitored system, as we know that the majority of calls coming from users of medical alert systems, are simply check-in's, so seniors can feel like they're being watched over, something 911 and many family members can't do or aren't willing to do (especially during working hours).
The cost of the AppleWatch Series 4 is not inexpensive, because the watch itself costs $399 to $499, but you'll also have to get an Iphone 5S or later model and get a cellular subscription.
The new MINI Guardian is another all-in-one mobile medical alert system - but it's smaller, less bulky and more aesthetic than most. Why's that important? Because one of the main reasons why mobile medical alert systems aren't worn is because seniors found the traditional ones unsightly and uncomfortable. The MINI comes with a fall detection system, a highly accurate GPS locating device and a two way speaker that connects to monitored agents - just in a smaller package.
When the MINI Guardian detects a fall, it automatically calls the monitoring center. You can also press the help button yourself at any time, should you need assistance. You can then speak to the trained monitoring agent through the two way voice communicator embedded in the Active Guardian pendent. The monitoring agent will then determine what type of help is needed, whether it be an ambulance, caregiver or the doorman from your building!
The MINI Guardian comes with a highly accurate location detection technology that uses both GPS and WiFi to help responders find your exact location. The battery charge lasts up to 5 days and the device can be worn in the shower.
It costs $47 a month on the annual plan (with fall detection included), no up front equipment costs and comes with the first month free, free shipping, no activation fees and a free lock box. You can cancel the contract any time, with no penalty ($50 restocking fee if you cancel within 3 months) and get a pro-rated refund for the unused portion of your annual subscription.
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MyNotifi is an un-monitored fall detection solution. It has two options, one which connects to your cell phone and provides coverage in and outside your home (but you'll need to have your cell phone with you for it to work out of your home). The second, works without a cell phone, but can only provide coverage in your home.
The advantage of MyNotifi is that there's only a one time fee for the device of $179 for the mobile option and $199 for the home based option. There is no ongoing monthly fee.
The disadvantage is that it's not monitored, requires you to carry a cell phone for it to work outside the home, and does not come with two-way talk. The lack of two way talk is a big deal for us. Family will get notified via text, but won't be able to assess the situation of their loved one, unlike most monitored mobile medical alert systems.
Another concern we have, is that in live testing, MyNotifi reported that of the 90 fall events it tested, it was only 73.3% accurate, which seems kind of low.
Starky Livio AI Hearing Aid
People with mild hearing loss are 3 times more likely to fall according to Starky, which only explains one reason Starky was interested in developing a fall detection solution. The other is that it's location, in the head, should give it a natural advantage in avoiding false alarms than devices worn on the wrist or around the neck.
If the hearing aid detects a fall, it sends a text notification to up to three family contacts along with the location. Family can then call the wearer to determine the appropriate response.
One of the big advantages of the Starky Livio AI is that it's always worn by the user. One of the biggest challenges of traditional medical alert systems is getting people to wear them. Having the fall detector embedded in a device you're wearing anyways, solves the issue.
The only disadvantage is that in order for the notifications to work, you'll need your phone nearby.
Hearing aids are not inexpensive and the Starky Livio AI is no exception. Unfortunately, pricing is set by individual dealers, but brace yourself for a cost of $3,000 per ear!
Vayyar Walabot Home
Set it and forget it, that's what Vayyar's Walabot Home fall alert system is all about! Instead of wearing an alert device on your wrist, around your neck or in your ear, the Walabot is placed
on a wall and using radio frequency technology, detects falls with 4 times the accuracy of other technologies. Walabot uses 3D radio frequency technology that can detect motion and imagery through walls. It can even detect if you're breathing!
If Walabot detects a fall, it calls your pre-programmed emergency contact (up to three), and you're able to speak with them through the 2 way communicator embedded in the device on the wall (like a speaker phone). Of course the only downside to it, is that it doesn't protect you outside your home.
The idea of having a fall detection device in your home that's more accurate AND that you don't have to remember to wear or charge, is very appealing. Each unit costs around $100 and there is a $9.95 a month subscription fee. This is an exciting new technology that we're going to keep an eye on.
There are a host of new fall detection technologies coming on to the market. When looking for the right one for you, we'd recommend taking into consideration ease of use, comfort, coverage, price, accuracy and of course whether you feel a monitored or unmonitored solution is best for your situation.
We do not recommend you get a fall detection system that requires you to carry around two separate devices, as some mobile medical alert systems require (we did not include any in the above). We find that type of system bulky to carry around, and find that in the end, people tend not to wear them because they don't want to carry around so much gear. The lesson is, the easier, lighter, slimmer and nicer the better.
Last Word of Caution
One last word of caution. If you're considering getting an unmonitored solution, we strongly recommend you get comfortable with the responsibility. If a caregiver gets a text alert that their loved one has fallen, but they're in the shower, sleeping, giving a sales pitch, driving, charging the phone or otherwise occupied, your loved one's life lies in the balance. It's a big responsibility and it might be a big weight off your shoulders if you know that help will be available 24X7 no matter what you're doing.