“Pressure-sensitive alarms that sound when a patient tries to get out of bed do not prevent falls or reduce injury, researchers have found.” This is a hospital-based study but there are implications for the use of bed monitors at home too. Hospital Alarms Fail to Prevent Injury, Study Finds New York Times.
I see bed sensors and pressure pads as informers of a fall; not a preventor. If you use them as such, after a robust assessment, then they will work as this. Having sat with many a person who is ‘at risk’ of falling I can tell you that even sat next to them you cannot prevent some falls.
As with community alarms, alarms going off from nurse call systems on a ward can mean anything from someone wanting their TV remote control passing to them to somebody observing another person having a heart attack. Because of this range of reasons the response will always be an average one unless other alerts such as somebody shouting or screaming in which case the nurse’s pace quickens. The reason for this is there are lots of mini-emergencies on a ward and only a finite (usually understaffed) number of bodies to answer.
It is a different scenario in the home environment. An alert is for one person. Probably the only person in the home aside from the carer. Response is as quick as the responder can get there.
Out of bed monitors detect just that. They are not falls preventers they are falls alerters or potential falls alerters. If the person is at home alone it is about ensuring that person’s safety post fall by the monitoring centre and response. Not laying on the floor for 6 hours until a relative or carer turns up. Not exacerbating their hip fracture by trying to crawl to alert somebody. Not suffering from incontinence due to immobility from the fall. Not laying on the floor for hours thinking they are going to die there – which has the obvious negative implications during post op recovery and return home.
It is the same as a smoke detector. If it goes off you know there is probably a fire. Smoke detectors don’t prevent fires – they may prevent the fire getting bigger or spreading or just alert people enough to escape.
Pointless study I feel.
Given that I have seen a recommendation from an investigating officer after a fall at a care home [i]that slippers are located next to the bed and to be worn for all bathroom visits[/i] I cannot help but feel that there is a lot more prevention work that could be done which would then allow use of alarms in a more suitable way and reduce the chance of ‘alarm fatigue’ …
By the time a person has felt around sleepily for their slippers (either by poking with their toes and being off balance or bending down and risking falling) or in fact, completely forgetting that there is a rule to put their slippers on, trips over the things, we seem to have introduced much greater risk than them walking barefoot in the first place.
I don’t automatically put slippers on to go to the bathroom … so what are the chances of me changing my habits in my dotage?
As is so often the case with reports on assistive technologies, this one highlights that it is not so much the technology but the way it is put to use that is often the flaw.