By Annelien De Geest, Copywriter, imec
Why Falling Doesn’t Need
To Be a Stumbling Block
The Fall Risk Scale: an efficient and affordable tool to prevent elderly people from falling.
Every second somewhere in
Europe, an older
person falls. Falling
not only causes
but also affects
are afraid to fall
again, are tempted
to move less, and stay indoors, which might lead to
social isolation. Now, there is a lot of research on fall
detection, but little attention is paid to fall prevention.
This is something the Fall Risk Scale is attempting
to change. This technology—which can be integrated
into a regular bathroom scale—calculates someone’s
potential fall risk in less than a minute.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Falling comes at a cost. The medical care and potential
hospitalization after a fall incident generally amount
to about 1,000 euros ($1,202 USD) per person.
Additionally, falling also affects people’s self-esteem and
for many older people, a fall incident is the first step
toward a nursing home. Figures from the Center for Fall
and Fracture Prevention in Flanders also indicate that
one in three falls could have been prevented if certain
simple measures had been taken in advance (using a
walker, removing carpets not anchored to the floor,
buying a new pair of glasses, etc.).
Ironically, fall prevention now usually only happens
after someone is hospitalized due to a fall incident.
The medical staff then estimate the potential fall risk
to determine whether the patient can return home
and which other measures need to be taken. At the
moment, they usually do this based on the so-called
‘get-up-and-go’ test. In this test, the patient has to
get up from a chair, walk three meters, turn, and walk
back to the chair as quickly as possible. Based on this
observation, the doctor then determines the patient’s
potential fall risk. Another option is to analyze the
patient’s gait in a special lab using sensors and cameras.
The disadvantage of both these methods is that they
require a doctor, physiotherapist, and/or specialized
high-tech equipment. For this reason, fall risk is
generally not estimated preventatively.
Figure 1: Annelien De Geest.