There are a variety of programs, exercises and home modifications aimed at enabling older adults to reduce their risk of falls. At times though the recommendation may include the use of a mobility aid – some type of walker or cane – to accommodate for a lack of balance or strength. We’ve heard about the reluctance of some older adults in using these aids, but what about those that don’t have a problem using one, but just forget to?
In my years of practice, it’s been all too common to hear someone say that when they fell, their walker just happened to be in another room or even off to the side. I’ve watched people walk into their bedroom with their walker, but then leave it at the door before they get into their bed. This can make for a risky situation when they have to get up out of bed, especially if it’s in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
Being able to observe these habits at a home visit is great because we’re able to provide training and education on the best way to use the mobility aid and can cue them to use their mobility aid. Unfortunately, a therapist/nurse/caregiver/family member isn’t always there to do this. What happens then? How can we prevent these “risky moments” when someone who needs to be using a mobility aid, isn’t? This is even more of a problem for those older adults with dementia who require more training and cuing to use their mobility aid and are not with constant care.
The idea is for a device that would attach to the mobility aid and connect to a bracelet worn by the older adult. The device would be programmed for an appropriate distance that it should be from the user and should the user go too far away from the mobility aid, it would result in either a voice-alarm or vibration to cue the user to their mobility aid.
The goal is to ensure that those who do need to have a walker or cane beside them while ambulating, will get constant feedback to do so, thereby reducing their risk of falls. As a second benefit, data from the wristband – i.e. how often a reminder was required – could be shared with a health practitioner to help focus on further education or training that is needed.