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Alarming Fall-Related Death Rates in the U.S.

Firstly, please take a moment to notice these horrendous numbers regarding falls among older adults in the U.S.:

Ref: phys.org

Fall death rates in the U.S. increased 30% for older adults from 2007 to 2016. Unless we do something, this rate of change will lead to seven fall deaths every hour by 2030.2

The Challenge of Today's Fall Alerts

In too many instances when older adults fall, the fall results in severe injuries. These injuries could potentially make the person temporarily paralyzed, and in the worst case, unconscious. Even though a variety of digital devices today offer a push-button in case of a fall, the major challenge occurs when the user is unable to physically push the button to call for help.

There are also wearable fall detectors that monitor the user's movements and trigger an alarm when fall movements are recognized. Unfortunately, such devices suffer from the problem of false alarms where the devices fail to distinguish between certain daily activities and an actual fall, nor do they detect minor fall movements such as a person sliding out of the bed, and they thereby weaken the user's confidence. Furthermore, far from all falls require instant action. These fall detectors are triggered even when the patient is able to get up again without being injured. The actual problem is not the fall itself that all sensors look for, the real problem is when such a fall leads to the patient being unable to move or their respiratory and/or heart rates turn critical. Critical changes of vital signs do not necessarily happen right after a fall, but can appear later when the person sleeps during the night for instance. A push-button or wearable movement tracker will not detect this before it may be too late.

The XeThru X4M200 Respiration Sensor is not just able to detect a person lying still and/or not moving for longer periods, but it can also detect vital signs that can signify ominous indicators of a person in need of help.


Delving into the Extensive Problem

Earlier this year, I, Julia Sofie Pleym, accompanied by two fellow students at Pace University in NYC completed our bachelor thesis concerning elderly care in the U.S. Our main objective was to delve into the everyday challenges among older adults in the U.S. aged 65 and above, as well as their relatives' concerns and demands and learn more about the industry as a whole to identify its growth, trends, current brands, etc. To be able to gather as much informative data as possible, we conducted qualitative research where we sat down and talked directly with older adults and their relatives, and quantitative research with a survey that was evenly distributed to 100 men and women throughout the U.S. who had at least one living parent aged 65 or older.


The Dilemma of the Situation

Research shows that 90% of people aged 65 and older have expressed their desire to live in their own homes as long as possible.3 But, then again, 1 in 3 adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year, and almost half of these people will fall even more frequently.4 What’s more, about 29% of the 46 million elderlies in the U.S. live alone. That translates to more than 13 million people! The elderly who live alone are more likely to be poor, especially those with advancing age.5 With the costs of health insurance, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home health nurses significantly increasing each year, the elderly are dealing with a remarkable hurdle.


A Vivid Desire for Autonomy in Everyday Life

The methods we used within our qualitative primary research were focus groups and in-depth interviews with people living in nursing homes, people with home health nurses, people living alone with no health assistance, children of people in these living situations, and some nurses. Even though there was, of course, different input and information, there was one key common denominator from all the people we spoke with: the elderlies' need for autonomy in their everyday lives.

Quotation markI want to be cared about, but fear being cared for Quotation mark
- Citation from one of our in-depth interview subjects


Key Findings from the Survey

One of the first questions we asked our respondents were how often they worried about their parents’ well-being and safety. The results are illustrated below:

Chart: The respondents' levels of concern for their elderly parents


What the Consumers Want

We gave our survey respondents a list of nine different features that we had found in our primary and secondary research to be valuable attributes of a digital health monitoring device. The respondents were asked to select their three most preferred features and the three top selected features are presented in the chart:

Chart: The respondents' three most preferred features of a digital health monitoring device

The chart tells us that the consumers' key desires are detection of physical changes in the patient's vital signs and detection of situations where they fall, either in the bathroom or falling out of bed. All three of these features are very well connected, as the falls could potentially result in the person being unable to move and with injuries that threaten vital signs.

A challenge with wearable devices is that many of the users prefer to take them off while they are sleeping and taking a shower or bath. The ideal solution would therefore be a device mounted e.g. to the wall that would do the job automatically, with no manual requirements nor false alarms.


We asked our survey respondents if their parents were currently experiencing any health condition(s) that negatively impacted their quality of life. An astounding 80% of the respondents answered that their parent(s) indeed were currently experiencing health issues. We followed up the “yes”-respondents with the question “Are there any devices you are currently using to monitor their well-being and safety?” and only 8% responded that they were using such devices.

Additionally, all of the respondents were asked which health monitoring devices they knew, and 36% answered "None."

So, despite high levels of concern and the vast majority of the respondents having older parents with some type of health issue that negatively impacts their lives, there is a clear major gap and opportunity in this market.


XeThru Sensor Technology Can Save Lives and Cut Expenses

Novelda’s XeThru X4M200 Respiration Sensor monitors movement and vital signs of a person within a room. It is a non-contact and non-intrusive sensor that also solves the privacy concerns introduced by camera surveillance, with great flexibility in placement options like the ceiling, wall, nightstand etc. By monitoring movement and respiration, the health personnel, caregivers and/or relatives can be alerted about any abnormal situation.

Example illustration: Real-time monitoring of an older adult shown on a tablet

Retrofitting a home with sensor technology comes at a considerably lower cost than living in nursing homes/assisted living facilities, and not to mention it allows the elderly to live at home longer with a piece of mind – also for their relatives.


Conclusion

The elderly have a strong desire to live in their own homes as long as possible, but the alarming and constantly increasing rates of falls with severe and even fatal consequences create a considerable dilemma. Moreover, the cost of home health nurses, assisted living facilities, and health insurance premiums are continuing to rise each year. Today's fall alerts are not meeting the consumers' demands: the most common alternatives of digital health monitoring and fall devices today are various types of wearable devices that the user can either push in case of a fall or it is supposed to detect fall movements of the wearer. These devices are limited in the way that the users either have to physically push a button, the devices fail to recognize critical falls, and also generates too many false alarms. Post-fall monitoring is also a key factor that is needed to remove false alarms or detect critical changes of vital signs.

The consumers have extremely high concern levels, but simply lack an acceptable solution to their problem. What they want is a device that can both detect a person who is helpless after a fall and also detect changes in the person's vital signs. Additionally, continuous non-contact detection, logging and analysis of a person’s vital signs give valuable information about the person's general health and well-being. The XeThru X4M200 Respiration Sensor is able to do all of the above.

Numerous of Application Areas

Even though this post is focusing on elderly fall statistics, the challenges especially for those who live alone and how XeThru can alert relatives/caregivers/health personnel and help save both lives and cut expenses in case of an emergency, it is noted that the XeThru sensors have numerous of other application areas as well. The XeThru sensors are perfectly suited for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, allowing the staff to immediately be aware of any abnormal situation - which can be critical especially at nighttime when the residents are sleeping and no staff member is watching them.


With the XeThru X4M200 Respiration Sensor's ability to monitor respiration, it can also be used to monitor babies and anyone who wants to keep track of their general health status. Not only that, with its ability to detect human presence and movement it can also be used to control lighting and HVAC systems, be integrated into safety/security systems for a more efficient evacuation e.g. in case of a fire or to optimize burglar alarms. It can also be applied to detect children or animals left behind in hot vehicles and thereby prevent hazardous situations from happening.

These are only some of the possible applications for the sensor, in other words; the possibilities are manifold.


Read more about our X4M200 Respiration Sensor

The X4M200 Respiration Sensor can monitor sleep and respiration, and is targeted for applications such as sleep monitoring, baby monitoring, elderly care, and other health monitoring applications.


References
1: https://phys.org/news/2016-05-carnegie-mellon-fall-prevention-sensors.html
2: https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
3: https://deloitte.wsj.com/cio/2014/07/28/using-sensor-technology-to-lower-elder-care-costs/
4: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/falls/
5: https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/geriatrics/social-issues-in-the-elderly/the-elderly-living-alone