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Protecting People with IDD from Falls

By June 25, 2024No Comments

Many people associate older adults with an increased risk of falls.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one in four older adults in the United States falls annually. Falls can lead to severe injuries, such as broken bones or head injuries, and result in about 3 million visits to emergency departments each year.

For people with Intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD), falls are an even more severe problem. While fall rates for people with IDD are like those among older adults, they occur across an entire lifespan. According to the studies curated by the UMASS Medical School Center for Developmental Disabilities Evaluation and Research, people with IDD experience:

  • Nationally, about 30% of adults with IDD fall each year.
  • 15% of falls result in serious injury.
  • About two-thirds of adults who fall will fall more than once.

Each time someone experiences a fall, it increases their risk of a more serious injury from the next fall. 

These statistics and others demonstrate a critical need for technologies that can help detect falls as they happen and, more importantly, provide helpful alerts before the fall occurs.

The importance of fall detection devices

Fall detection devices are crucial tools for enhancing the safety and well-being of individuals with IDD. They play a vital role in ensuring a timely response during falls, which are a common risk for people with IDD due to various factors, including mobility issues, muscle weakness, and coordination problems.

The primary importance of fall detection technology lies in its ability to automatically create a fall alert for caregivers and/or emergency services. This rapid response is essential as it can significantly decrease the time it takes to provide necessary medical assistance and reduce the severity of injuries sustained from falls. Quick intervention is especially critical for those with IDD who may not always be able to articulate their needs or call for help independently.

Also, data collected by these devices can be invaluable for caregivers and healthcare providers. It helps assess the frequency and circumstances of falls and guide potential adjustments in care plans, physical therapy, or living arrangements to prevent future incidents.

How does automatic fall detection work?

Fall detection systems use algorithms that analyze sensor data to distinguish between normal activities (like sitting down quickly) and actual falls. When these sensors detect a motion pattern that resembles a fall, the device analyzes the impact and the user’s subsequent movement, or lack of it, resulting in a fall alert.

For instance, if the sensors detect a sudden acceleration followed by a sudden stop and no movement after that, the algorithm may interpret this as a fall. A fall alert is then generated. Suppose a fall is detected, and the user doesn’t dismiss the alert or get up within a specific time frame. In that case, the device will automatically initiate an alert to pre-set emergency contacts or services. This ensures that help is on the way even if the individual cannot request it themselves.

BoundaryCare’s Approach to Fall Detection & Prevention

While detecting falls is crucial, preventing them is even better. In fact, research shows that almost one-third of falls can be prevented.

BoundaryCare can help identify the causes of falls that lead to increased risk for people with IDD. These can include:

  • Seizures and seizure symptoms
  • Changes in gait
  • Other health metrics that affect balance like heart rate, A-Fib, and oxygen saturation

BoundaryCare’s innovative fall detection and prevention solution integrates seamlessly with Apple Watch fall detection capabilities, allowing users and caregivers to benefit from the Apple Watch’s advanced sensors and health monitoring capabilities.

Apple Watch fall detection technology uses built-in sensors continually monitor for falls.  When a potential fall is detected, the watch interfaces with the BoundaryCare app to analyze the incident further and, if necessary, send out an alert. This system provides accurate fall detection and allows for a degree of customization. This includes determining who is notified (family, friends, healthcare providers and the type of follow-up actions that should be taken.

In addition to automatic alerts, BoundaryCare features like health monitoring and activity tracking contribute to a holistic approach to health and safety for individuals at risk of falls. BoundaryCare offers people with IDD and their caregivers a powerful tool for protection against falls and for maintaining peace of mind.