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By Carol Marak - Aging Matters

More than 52 million Americans are age 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census. In 2014 alone, the Center for Disease Control reported 29 million falls causing 7 million injuries and costing an estimated $31 billion in annual Medicare costs. Falls in the the older population lead to serious injury, a loss of independence and even death.

With more than 10,000 older Americans turning 65 each day, the number of fall-related injuries and deaths is expected to surge, resulting in cost increases unless preventive measures are taken.

After Medicare refused to pay for the cost of treating a fall with injury that may occur during a hospital stay, the administration began searching for ways to prevent falls. Medicare deemed such falls preventable, and state they “should not occur after admission to the hospital.” However, falls continued.

Virtual Observers

With the improvement of the cost of video monitoring, trained employees can now watch a patient in a hospital room. A few on the market today are made by AvaSys, Cisco, and Nexus. It’s reported that the tele-sitters have reduced falls by 8 percent.

Smartphone Fall Prevention Apps

Technology at home has taken a big step forward with apps. These have been developed by a physical therapist, Agewell’s Equilibrium and Kinesis QTUG. The apps uses a smartphone or wearable device to detect a possible fall, and then determines the best treatment to reduce the risk. A family member or caregiver can make the assessment using either a smartphone for periodic testing, or a wearable sensor for continuous monitoring of physical function. The device can also be used by physical or occupational therapists, care workers, doctors and nurses.

The Equilibrium prototype operates on an Android platform and has been tested in assisted living, outpatient physical therapy, home health and community settings. A pilot program can be accessed on their website. “Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults and can lead to social isolation, depression, lack of independence, hip fracture and sadly, even death,” according to the Equilibrium website. “Many who fear falling limit their activity and engagement in enjoyable activities leading to loss of strength. Ironically, these are the two main reasons people have falls.”

Read more about technology reducing falls at

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By Carol Marak

Aging Matters

Carol Marak, aging advocate, She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Carol Marak, aging advocate, She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.