Falls are the leading cause of injury death among elders in the United States and will cost the country $43B annually in 2020. Of particular concern is what is called the "long lie." Over one half of elders who fall are unable to get up without assistance and they are more likely to suffer additional complications and poorer prognoses. The investigators have previously developed a passive fall and activity detection system (PFADS) for use in skilled nursing facilities and other institutions. This project proposes to gather preliminary data to determine if a similar device can be designed to work in homes, thus allowing elders to live independently more safely and their caregivers to be reassured that if a fall occur help will immediately be summoned. The vision is to create a system that is as trustworthy and ubiquitous as a smoke detector - a system that is clearly so valuable that no person would ever consider being without one. Thus, like a smoke detector, the system must be simple enough to be installed and used by the elder or their caregiver;not require complex special equipment or technical skill (such as using an internet connection), and not require the elder to wear anything special, push any buttons or change their lifestyle in any way. The system will be highly immune to false alarms caused by pets, crawling grandchildren, laying down in bed, etc. It will not alarm even if the elder purposely gets down on the floor to search fo a dropped item. Finally, the system absolutely must be inexpensive enough to be broadly available. The basic principle of operation of the PFADS is to detect body heat in various horizontal "slices" of the room, then analyze this data in real-time to identify specific "fall signatures". Essentially the idea is to look for human- size emitters of infrared energy that rapidly accelerate toward the floor. This basic concept has been tested and shown to be effective in skilled nursing faculties;however, the institutional version is installed by professionals, has a central station monitoring it and is deployed in rooms with nearly identical physical layouts. The team will work with Dr. Katherine Hesse, an accomplished Gerontologist from Massachusetts General Hospital, to define the requirements for residential settings and then gather preliminary data to determine if a redesigned PFADS can meet the requirements of a residential application. Specifically, Aim 1 is to add a meshing radio and data logging capability to the current institution version of the PFADS to allow experimental data to be gathered in a laboratory/residential setting.
Aim 2 is to gather this data in order to support Aim , which is to refine the fall detection algorithm to maximize it sensitivity and specificity in the residential setting and determine if it meets the requirements defined in Aim 1.
Approximately 1.8 million senior citizens need to visit the emergency department in the US each year due to falls;15,000 of these people will die. The longer the elder has to wait to receive aid, the greater the chance of their death - 67% die if the don't receive help within 72 hours, but only 12% die if they get help within an hour. This objective of this research is to create a reliable, inexpensive, easy-to-use passive fall detection system for use in homes;the system will not require the elder to wear anything, push any buttons or change their life style in any way, yet it will immediately call for help if the elder flls down.