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We studied the effect of automatic fall detection units on the fear of falling. Participants were community alarm users living in the community aged over 75 years or those aged 60-74 years who had experienced a fall in the previous six months. Of those approached, 31% consented to take part; the main reason given for potential participants declining involvement was that they were happy with the technology they already had. Subjects were assigned to a control group (n = 21) or intervention group (n = 34) based on age, the number of self-reported falls in the previous six months and their score on the self-administered Falls Efficacy Scale (FES), which measures fear of falling on a scale of 0-100, with higher scores indicating less fear. The monitoring period lasted a mean of 17 weeks (SD 3.1). There was no significant difference between the intervention and control groups in their mean ratings of fear of falls (40.3 vs 37.5, difference 2.8, 95% CI 6.2 to 11.8), health-related quality of life or morale. Differences in fear of falling between an intervention subgroup who wore their detector at least occasionally (62%) and those who did not (38%) suggested that some people may benefit from a fall detector while others may lose confidence if they are provided with one. Most users who wore their detectors at least occasionally felt more confident and independent and considered that the detector improved their safety.
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Published paper
Brownsell, S. and Hawley, M. (2004) Automatic fall detectors and the fear of
falling. Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 10 (5). pp. 262-267.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1258/1357633042026251
1
JTT 0401/09
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Automatic fall detectors and the fear of falling
Simon Brownsell and Mark S Hawley
Department of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering, Barnsley District General
Hospital NHS Trust, UK
Correspondence:
Simon Brownsell
Department of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering
Barnsley District General Hospital NHS Trust
Barnsley S75 2EP
UK
(Fax: +44 1226 208 159; Email: simon.brownsell@bdgh-tr.trent.nhs.uk)
Accepted:
2
Summary
We studied the effect of automatic fall detection units on the fear of falling amongst
community alarm users living in the community. A total of 55 community alarm users,
at increased risk of falling were recruited: 34 received fall detectors (intervention
group) and there were 21 in a control group. On intention to treat analysis, there was no
significant difference between the intervention and control group on change in fear of
falls (40.3 vs 37.5, difference 2.8, 95% CI 6.2 to 11.8), health-related quality of life or
morale. Differences in fear of falling, between a group who wore their detector
regularly (62%) and those who did not, suggest that some people may benefit from a fall
detector; conversely, others may lose confidence if provided with a fall detector. Most
users who wore their detectors regularly felt more confident and independent and
considered that the detector improved their safety.
Introduction
Approximately 33% of older people fall each year [1] and it has been suggested that
falls account for up to 40% of residential care home admissions [2]. Fear of falling is
also important. Between 30 and 50% of independently living older people are fearful of
falling [3]. The fear of falling alone decreases quality of life [4] and increases the speed
of decline in the ability to perform activities of daily living [5]. It can also lead to self-
imposed isolation and refusal of mobility that can restrict the user's quality of life and
add to the caregiver's burden [6].
Community alarm systems are typically triggered from a radio pendant worn around the
neck. Users can summon assistance through the telephone system from a call centre.
Recently automatic fall detectors have been developed that are worn on the waist and
are about the size and weight of a pager (Fig 1). When a fall is detected the community
alarm control centre can be contacted automatically, thus removing the reliance on the
user to instigate a call for assistance.
The aims of the present study were to assess whether automatic fall detectors would
reduce the fear of falling, and improve health and morale, amongst existing community
alarm system users.
Methods
The study was approved by the appropriate research ethics committee. Participants
were existing community alarm users living in the community (aged over 75 years), or
alarm users who had experienced a fall in the previous six months (aged 60-74 years).
Participants were selected by randomly choosing a surname letter and then approaching
eligible subjects, in sequential order, according to their records. Telephone contact was
made by community alarm staff and, upon approval, details forwarded to the research
team who provided additional information and an opportunity to ask questions before
obtaining consent to take part in the study. Thirty one percent of those originally
approached consented to take part; the main reason cited for declining involvement was
that people were happy with the technology they had already.
Subjects were assigned to control and intervention groups based on age, the number of
self-reported falls in the previous six months and the score from completing the Falls
3
Efficacy Scale (FES). The FES [7] scores the fear of falling when conducting ten every
day activities such as walking short distances, using stairs and having a bath. The FES
tool uses a self-scoring system, where 0 indicates not confident at all, 5 fairly confident,
and 10 completely confident of doing ten everyday activities without falling. The tool
scores from 0 to 100.
Sixty six people commenced the project but due to withdrawal (9) and death (2), there
were 55 people who completed the study and there was ultimately an imbalance
between the groups in terms of falls history and FES score, as indicated in Table 1.
78% of the subjects lived alone.
Participants were visited and asked to keep a record of any falls they experienced and to
complete a questionnaire. This contained 29-items, covering topics such as self
perceived health, current compliance with pendant usage, use of home based
technologies, mobility and feelings of safety. In addition, two other tools were used.
These were the Philadelphia Geriatric Centre Morale Scale (Anglicised version) to
measure morale [8] and the EQ-5D health-related quality of life measure [9]. A
comparison of post-fall scores was conducted for the FES scores, the EQ-5D scores and
the Philadelphia scale using analysis of covariance to adjust for pre-fall monitor values
[10].
After these baseline tests were completed, participants in the intervention group
received a fall detector from one of three suppliers (Attendo, Tunstall or Tynetec). As
far as the user was concerned these devices all worked in a similar manner, were worn
on the waist, and had similar weight and size. The installation of equipment and
training of participants was conducted by a community alarm installer from the control
centre, following training from the manufacturers.
During the monitoring period, which typically lasted 17 weeks (SD 3.1), call activation
records from the control centre were forwarded to the research team every two weeks.
These call records were compared with subjects’ self-reported experience to determine
the number of successful activations, false positive activations (i.e. where the fall
detector raised an alert but no fall had occurred) and false negative activations (i.e.
where a fall had occurred but the detector did not raise an alert). At the end of this
period interviews were conducted with all of the participants and the questionnaires
repeated.
Results
Fear of falling
The mean baseline value for all participants in both the intervention and control arms at
the commencement of the project was 29 (range 1-71). There were no significant
differences in post-intervention FES score between the intervention and control group
after adjusting for pre-intervention scores using analysis of covariance, Table 2. A
Kruskal-Wallis test was used to investigate whether there was any difference between
the three manufacturers in terms of the fear of falling (i.e. the FES score). There was no
significant difference (Kruskal-Wallis X
2
= 4.1, df = 4, P=0.4).
Most participants (62%) wore their fall detector regularly, as intended in the research
protocol (Table 3). Although the differences were not statistically significant, a per
4
protocol analysis based on self-reported compliance indicated that those subjects who
had worn their fall detector appropriately showed a larger increase in falls efficacy
(14.6) than the control group (10.6), whereas those who had not worn it appropriately
showed a smaller increase than controls (2.3) (P = 0.24).
Morale and health-related quality of life
There were no significant differences in the Philadelphia scale or the EQ-5D score
between the intervention and control group, Table 2.
User acceptance
38% of the subjects reported problems in attaching or wearing the device. Belts from
the manufacturers enabled the fall detector to be permanently housed in the belt,
therefore reducing the reliance on fine motor control. These were offered to all and
used by 65% of participants in the intervention group. However only 27% indicated
this improved matters.
Perceived benefits
Participants were asked specific questions on the benefits that the fall detectors gave
them (Table 4). Of those who wore the fall detector regularly:
58% thought it improved their independence;
85% considered it improved their safety;
72% felt more confident;
90% were pleased they had a fall detector.
Device performance
The control centre data revealed 138 false positive activations, or approximately 1 per
user per month. The reported activities being undertaken at the time (Table 5) suggest
that the majority of false activations arose when clothing was being moved. It is
interesting that the participant diaries reported 147 false activations, the discrepancy
being that, with one manufacturer’s equipment, participants soon realised that they
could cancel false activations without the control centre being contacted. This
functionality appeared to be viewed positively.
There were three reported instances of false negative activations, where the user
reported a fall but the fall detector did not activate. On one occasion the pendant was
activated and may have over-ridden the fall detector, while the other two incidents were
experienced by the same user and in both instances the person fell backwards. On one
occasion a fall was reported and the detector correctly raised a call for assistance, with
assistance being promptly provided.
Discussion
Both the intervention and control groups showed an increase in the FES score and
therefore an apparent reduction in the fear of falling, with no significant difference
between the two groups. The decrease in fear of falling in the control group is
5
interesting. It was shown in another study[3] that a counselling and advice intervention,
plus a light exercise regime, produced a significant increase in falls efficacy. It may be
that simply visiting the subjects to interview them about their attitudes to falling had an
effect on their confidence in relation to falls. There may also have been a seasonal
effect as the baseline testing was conducted in winter and the follow up data were
collected in late spring. It is likely that older people are more fearful of falling in
winter, as it is known that more falls occur during the winter period [11].
Within the intervention group, there was a sub-group whose compliance was good and a
second whose compliance was poor. The compliant group, on average, increased their
FES score above that of the control group whereas, in the non-compliant group, the FES
score increased less than in the control group. These results, although not statistically
significant, suggest that some people may benefit from a fall detector, in terms of their
fear of falling, and that, conversely, others may lose confidence if provided with a fall
detector. These points are supported by comments made by participants, for example
whilst one commented, "I would say that it’s one of the best safety nets someone could
have", another commented, "it made me feel vulnerable, more so than normal, because
it made me more aware of the possibility that I might fall." If this is confirmed by
further research, it would suggest that fall detectors should not be provided to all
vulnerable older people. Rather, careful assessment will be crucial in determining
whether such provision is likely to be beneficial or not.
The effect of fall detectors on the fear of falling is likely to be substantially affected by
user perception of the reliability and accuracy of the detector. Difficulties in wearing
the device and the level of false alerts, both false positive and false negative, are a cause
for concern, but it is not possible to quantify the effect of detector performance on the
results obtained in the present study. On the single occasion when an alert was correctly
raised, the alert led to assistance being provided in a timely manner, which gives some
cause for optimism. Despite these difficulties, those who wore the fall detectors
appropriately reported that they felt more confident and independent, and considered
that the detector improved their safety. They also felt pleased that they had a fall
detector, backing up the findings of a previous study which suggested that community
alarm users would welcome automatic fall detection units [12].
Acknowledgements
We are grateful to the South Yorkshire Coalfields Health Action Zone for funding this
work, to staff of the local community alarm centres for their assistance, to Emma Kelly
for assistance with interviews, to Tracey Young for statistical assistance, and to all the
service users who kindly consented to participate in the project.
References
1 Nevitt MC, Cummings SR, Kidd S, Black D. Risk factors for recurrent nonsyncopal
falls. A prospective study. Journal of the American Medical Association 1989;
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2 Bezon J, Echevarria KH, Smith GB. Nursing outcome indicator: preventing falls for
elderly people. Outcomes Management for Nursing Practice 1999; 3: 112-6
3 Tennstedt S, Howland J, Lachman M, Peterson E, Kasten L, Jette A. A randomized
controlled trial of a group intervention to reduce fear of falling and associated
6
activity restriction in older adults. Journals of Gerontology. Series B,
Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 1998; 53: 384-92
4 Salkeld G, Cameron ID, Cumming RG, et al. Quality of life related to fear of falling
and hip fracture in older women: a time trade off study. British Medical Journal
2000; 320: 341-6
5 Cumming RG, Salkeld G, Thomas M, Szonyi G. Prospective study of the impact of
fear of falling on activities of daily living, SF-36 scores, and nursing home
admission. Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical
Sciences 2000; 55: M299-305
6 Wyckoff R. Behaviour management alert: The fear of falling. Gero Services
http://www.geroservices.com/articles/falling.asp. Last checked 16 March 2004
7 Tinetti ME, Richman D, Powell L. Falls efficacy as a measure of fear of falling.
Journal of Gerontology 1990; 45: 239-43
8 Lawton MP. Philadelphia Geriatric Center Morale Scale: revision. Journal of
Gerontology 1975; 30: 85-9
9 EuroQol Group. “EQ-5D” . http://www.euroqol.org/. Last checked 17 March
2004
10 Altman DG, Machin D, Bryant TN, Gardner MJ. Statistics with Confidence. Second
edition. London: BMJ books, 2000
11 Campbell AJ, Spears GF, Borrie MJ, Fitzgerald JL. Falls, elderly women and the
cold. Gerontology 1988; 34: 205-8
12 Brownsell SJ, Bradley DA, Bragg R, Catlin P, and Carlier J. Do community alarm
users want telecare? Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare. 2000; 6: 199-204
7
Table 1. Characteristics of the control and intervention groups
Control
(n=21)
Intervention
(n=34)
Mean age (years)
80
78
Age range (years)
60-95
60-94
Proportion of group who experienced at least one fall in
the previous six months (%)
64
79
Mean FES score
24.7
31.7
FES range
2-67
1-71
8
Table 2. Results for the control and intervention groups, and for the adjusted differences
Control
post-
Control
adjusted†
Intervention
pre-
Intervention
post-
Intervention
adjusted†
Mean adjusted post-
difference
95% CI
P-
value**
(a) FES
34.7
37.5
31.3
41.2
40.3
2.8
-6.2 to
11.8
0.59
(b) EQ-5D
56.2
56.0
60.9
60.2
60.3
4.3
-7.2 to
15.8
0.83
(c)
Philadelphia*
8.9
8.7
8.6
8.2
8.3
-0.3
-1.8 to
1.2
0.68
†Post scores after adjusting for pre scores using analysis of covariance
*One person in the intervention group did not complete this questionnaire during follow up as it caused distress
**P-values are for adjusted difference in scores after analysis of covariance
9
Table 3. Responses to the question; how often do you wear the fall detector?
Frequently
Occasionally
When feeling
unwell/ when
carer not present
Hardly
ever
Never
Tried it,
but
didn’t
like it
38% (n=13)
12% (n=4)
12% (n=4)
6%
(n=2)
18%
(n=6)
15%
(n=5)
Table 4. Responses to the questions: Do you feel more independent/safer/confident
because of your fall detector? (n=34)
Yes, definitely
(%)
Mainly yes
(%)
No change
(%)
No, not really
(%)
No
(%)
Independent
Intervention
21
24
38
6
12
Per protocol
29
29
29
5
10
Not per protocol
8
15
54
8
15
Safer
Intervention
35
26
26
6
6
Per protocol
52
33
10
-
5
Not per protocol
8
15
54
15
8
Confident
Intervention
32
15
24
9
21
Per protocol
48
24
14
10
5
Not per protocol
8
-
38
8
46
Table 5. Participants' activities when false alerts occurred
Activity
n
Getting dressed/undressed
19
Removing trousers to use toilet
11
Dropped on floor or knocked over
11
Sitting in chair
10
Attaching or removing the detector from clothes or belt
6
Activated while in the kitchen
3
Getting in or out of bed
2
Bending over
2
Fall detector or belt fell off
2
Low battery
1
Bending down
1
Actual fall
1
Unknown
78
Total
147
10
Figure legend
1. An example of wearing one of the fall detectors
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... Furthermore, e-Health tools are designed to be more portable and lighter [21,22]. Other authors reported that they offer independence and confidence [27]. Nevertheless, despite technological developments and the multiplication of e-Health applications targeting older adults, knowledge on their effectiveness for supporting HA and its related outcomes has not been synthesized. ...
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... Furthermore, e-Health tools are designed to be more portable and lighter (21)(22). Other authors reported that they offer independence and confidence (27). Nevertheless, despite technological developments and the multiplication of e-Health applications targeting older adults, knowledge on their effectiveness for supporting HA and its related outcomes has not been synthesized. ...
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Full-text available
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Thesis
Full-text available
Falls can have severe consequences for older adults, such as bone fractures and long periods unable to get up from the ground, known as a long-lie. The capability to automatically detect falls would reduce long-lies through ensuring prompt arrival of assistance and would be valuable in fall risk assessment and fall prevention research. This research aimed to identify why existing wearable fall detection technology has not achieved acceptable performance and where further development should focus. There have been a plethora of attempts at fall detection; real-world testing is in an embryonic stage, nevertheless, it is clear performance has been poor. The focus has been on the testing of complete system performance, most commonly with acted falls, and it has been unclear how to improve performance. A new framework for the development of fall detection is proposed which promotes targeted investigation of how real-world performance can be improved. An improved method to quantify real-world performance is also proposed based on a systematic review of previous approaches. To prepare for the analysis of a real-world dataset, a pilot study was conducted which focused on the development and testing of posture classification algorithms. One of the world's largest datasets of real-world falls and activities of daily living was collected over 2 years in collaboration with 17 care homes across Scotland and the north of England. Twenty fall signals were extracted from 1,919 days of thigh-worn accelerometer recordings collected with 42 participants. Analysis of the data focused on falls from an upright to a sedentary (sitting or lying) posture, 16 falls met this criterion and were included in the analysis. To allow the data to be thoroughly checked for quality, the dataset was reduced to 104 days, from which 4,293 upright to sedentary transitions were extracted (including the 16 falls). This study was the first to: discern that falls may be too diverse to classify as a single group and focus on a subtype of fall, use posture transitions to select events for analysis, assess the importance of peak jerk and vertical velocity for fall detection, and investigate the occurrence of multiple impacts during falls. The results demonstrated that the core features used previously do not yield sufficient separation of the falls to allow detection without high rates of false positives. For the first time, it was shown that (1) a rapid increase in deceleration may be more indicative of a fall than the peak deceleration, and (2) multiple impacts occur frequently in falls but not other movements.
... I would argue, in turn, that the person with T1D whose autonomy (at least in the control sense) is 20 It may also negative affect those who care for persons with T1D, potentially undermining their autonomy (e.g., if it keeps them preoccupied, unable to sleep, or keeps them from performing other activities). 21 I think that there is an interesting analogy here with providing fall detectors to elderly people who are afraid of falling, which helps them become more confident (Brownsell and Hawley 2004). Phenomenologically, (fear of) falling down and (fear of) one's blood glucose concentrations "falling" into a state of hypoglycemia, with resultant unconsciousness, appear to be closely related. ...
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Conference Paper
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To estimate the utility (preference for health) associated with hip fracture and fear of falling among older women. Quality of life survey with the time trade off technique. The technique derives an estimate of preference for health states by finding the point at which respondents show no preference between a longer but lower quality of life and a shorter time in full health. A randomised trial of external hip protectors for older women at risk of hip fracture. 194 women aged >/= 75 years enrolled in the randomised controlled trial or who were eligible for the trial but refused completed a quality of life interview face to face. Respondents were asked to rate their own health by using the Euroqol instrument and then rate three health states (fear of falling, a "good" hip fracture, and a "bad" hip fracture) by using time trade off technique. On an interval scale between 0 (death) and 1 (full health), a "bad" hip fracture (which results in admission to a nursing home) was valued at 0.05; a "good" hip fracture (maintaining independent living in the community) 0.31, and fear of falling 0.67. Of women surveyed, 80% would rather be dead (utility=0) than experience the loss of independence and quality of life that results from a bad hip fracture and subsequent admission to a nursing home. The differences in mean utility weights between the trial groups and the refusers were not significant. A test-retest study on 36 women found that the results were reliable with correlation coefficients within classes ranging from 0.61 to 0.88. Among older women who have exceeded average life expectancy, quality of life is profoundly threatened by falls and hip fractures. Older women place a very high marginal value on their health. Any loss of ability to live independently in the community has a considerable detrimental effect on their quality of life.
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A randomized, single-blind controlled trial was conducted to test the efficacy of a community-based group intervention to reduce fear of falling and associated restrictions in activity levels among older adults. A sample of 434 persons age 60+ years, who reported fear of falling and associated activity restriction, was recruited front 40 senior housing sites in the Boston metropolitan area. Data were collected at baseline, and at 6-week, 6-month, and 12-month follow-ups. Compared with contact control subjects, intervention subjects reported increased levels of intended activity (p < .05) and greater mobility control (p < .05) immediately after the intervention. Effects at 12 months included improved social function (p < .05) and mobility range (p < .05). The intervention had immediate but modest beneficial effects that diminished over time in the setting with no booster intervention.
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Falls among elderly people living in the community are costly for all concerned in both monetary terms and quality of life. Faculty and students in a nurse-managed clinic in partnership with elderly residents of a public housing unit were able to reduce the number of falls from 30% to 3%. Falls were reduced through a preventive plan that included assessment of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that cause falling and interventions for these recognized risk factors.
Article
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The aim of this study was to assess the impact of fear of falling on the health of older people. A total of 528 subjects (mean age 77 years) were recruited from two hospitals in Sydney, Australia, and followed for approximately 12 months. Eighty-five subjects died during follow-up, and 31 were admitted to an aged care institution. Tinetti's Falls Efficacy Scale (FES) was successfully administered to 418 subjects as part of the baseline assessment. Among those with baseline FES scores, ability to perform 10 activities of daily living (ADLs) was assessed at baseline and follow-up in 307 subjects, and SF-36 scores were assessed at baseline and follow-up in 90 subjects recruited during the latter part of the study. Falls during follow-up were identified using a monthly falls calendar. Compared with those with a high fall-related self-efficacy (FES score = 100), those with a low fall-related self-efficacy (FES score < or = 75) had an increased risk of falling (adjusted relative risk 2.09, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.31-3.33). Those with poorer fall-related self-efficacy had greater declines in ability to perform ADLs (p < .001): the total ADL score decreased by 0.69 activities among persons with low FES scores (< or =75) but decreased by only 0.04 activities among persons with FES scores of 100. Decline in ADLs was not explained by the higher frequency of falls among persons with low FES scores. SF-36 scores (particularly scores on the Physical Function and Bodily Pain subscales) tended to decline more among persons with poor fall-related self-efficacy. Nonfallers who said they were afraid of falling had an increased risk of admission to an aged care institution. Fear of falling has serious consequences for older people. Interventions that successfully reduce fear of falling and improve fall-related self-efficacy are likely to have major health benefits.
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We developed the Falls Efficacy Scale (FES), an instrument to measure fear of falling, based on the operational definition of this fear as "low perceived self-efficacy at avoiding falls during essential, nonhazardous activities of daily living." The reliability and validity of the FES were assessed in two samples of community-living elderly persons. The FES showed good test-retest reliability (Pearson's correlation 0.71). Subjects who reported avoiding activities because of fear of falling had higher FES scores, representing lower self-efficacy or confidence, than subjects not reporting fear of falling. The independent predictors of FES score were usual walking pace (a measure of physical ability), anxiety, and depression. The FES appears to be a reliable and valid method for measuring fear of falling. This instrument may be useful in assessing the independent contribution of fear of falling to functional decline among elderly people.
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