PITTSBURGH, March 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Carnegie Mellon University's College of Engineering conducted a survey on falls among the elderly, and discovered that Americans are very worried about their elderly parent falling—and that this worry leads to action.
Every 13 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. Every twenty minutes, an older adult dies from a fall-related trauma. It's understandable, considering these statistics, why the College of Engineering survey found that 54% of the 1,900 U.S. adults are worried about an older parent falling, and why 81% of respondents expressed an interest in new sensor technology that can anticipate and prevent falls.
Two researchers, Associate Research Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Pei Zhang and Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Haeyoung Noh, are currently developing such active fall-prevention sensors for both senior care facilities and private homes that can determine both who is at risk and where they are at the time. Their technology monitors an individual's gait, and can send mobile alerts to nurses, caregivers or patients themselves, if their walking gait changes threateningly. While the goal is to anticipate and prevent falls, the technology is programmed to immediately notify someone, which can include emergency responders, should an individual experience a sudden fall–even if the person is unconscious.
"Many older adults in senior care facilities are restricted to wheelchairs when there are concerns about stability, but this technology could allow them to regain some of their independence," says Noh, whose sensors are currently being tested at Vincentian Home in Pittsburgh and Lucas Physical Therapy and Fitness in Sunnyvale, California.
Of the 1,900 people in the survey, a little over 1,000 adults are are concerned their parent may experience a fall, and 70% of these individuals worry at least every week, if not every day. The frequency and amount people worry is not influenced by whether the parent lives by themselves or not, though people are slightly less troubled if the parent lives in an assisted living or senior care facility. However, 62% of those with parents in assisted living or senior care facilities still worry once a week or every day.
All of this anxiety explains why, according to the survey, people are very responsive about caring for their parents. They frequently visit their parents, and also have neighbors or staff that look after them. 44% of respondents said they or a sibling checks in on their parent daily, while 33% said they or a sibling checks in every week. Another 12% said they stop by as needed. In addition, 56% of respondents reported that neighbors or staff physically check on their parent daily, while 27% said someone visits every week.
"Our sensors are designed to predict and anticipate falls so individuals can worry less about their parents with the knowledge that our technology will discover their parents are not walking the way they normally do, whether because of medication or because they've become fatigued," says Zhang.
Advances in sensor technology may offer solutions to the problem of falls among the elderly, helping to prevent falls before they happen and therefore reduce the risk of fall-related injuries.
About the survey: The first part of the survey included 1,900 adults representative of the U.S. population, while the second portion screened for the 1,000 adults among the original 1,900 who said they are worried about their parent falling. The survey was conducted with new sensor research at Carnegie Mellon University in mind to gain insight into how many people are worried about falls, what actions they take, and also to discover breakdowns for anxiety by demographic.
About the College of Engineering: The College of Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University is a top-ranked engineering college that is known for our intentional focus on cross-disciplinary collaboration in research. The College is well-known for working on problems of both scientific and practical importance. Our "maker" culture is ingrained in all that we do, leading to novel approaches and transformative results. Our acclaimed faculty have a focus on innovation management and engineering to yield transformative results that will drive the intellectual and economic vitality of our community, nation and world.
About Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 13,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small faculty-to-student ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real world problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation.
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SOURCE Carnegie Mellon University