Using Wrist Worn Fall Detectors With High Fall Risk Seniors

By: Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

Wrist worn fall detectors are a more popular option among seniors because they are more discreet and work automatically. Learn more about how these devices work and which models are the best,

Income Disclosure: I recommend products based on my personal experience working with seniors. I may earn a commission on items purchased from links in this guide. Learn More.

A fall is described as an event that results in an individual coming to rest unexpectedly on the floor, ground, or other lower level. Falls among senior citizens is a serious issue. The CDC estimates that more than one in every four seniors fall every year.

Moreover, 1 out of the 5 falls causes critical injury, such as head injury and broken bones. In total, over eight hundred thousand patients are hospitalized for severe fall injury, with the vast majority of the patients suffering from hip fractures and head injury.

Finally, the risk of falling might impart fear among the elderly, who subsequently cut back on physical activity, which lowers their strength. From broken bones to head injuries, falls are dangerous and can severely affect a person’s life. Unfortunately, less than half of individuals who fall see a doctor. They ignore the fall and its consequences and move on.

If you are a caregiver, it is important that you monitor your elderly loved one and ensure they never fall. One way you can keep tabs on your loved one is to have them wear wrist worn fall detectors.

These fall detectors typically resemble a wristwatch or wristband in design and shape. They are familiar in general aesthetics, comfortable to wear on an on-going basis, and they blend in with the other accessories an elderly would wear.

How Do Wrist Worn Fall Detectors Work?

All wrist worn fall detectors use several sensors and a lot of data analysis to recognize a fall is taking place. Typically, a fall detector watch will combine data from an accelerometer and gyroscope to determine the arm’s position, its trajectory, and the impact acceleration occasioned by fall to determine a fall has occurred.

After sensing a fall has occurred, the wristwatch or wristband will wait for a few seconds before activating a fall alarm and notification, which can be sent to the emergency services or a loved one. The short wait is designed to weed out false readings before sending the message to emergency services or monitoring call centers. If the watch senses regular movement, the fall detected might have been wrong, or it might have been a small fall not warranting a visit by emergency services.

senior woman helping husband up after he had a fall

What Are The Pros Of Wrist Worn Fall Detectors?

They Are Discreet – Wrist worn fall detectors, especially modern models, are some of the most discrete fall detectors you can purchase for a senior loved one. Their form factor gives them a similar appearance to a regular smartwatch. In fact, some models include fall monitoring as an added feature to other smartwatch features. As such, you can purchase a fall monitoring watch or wristband that incorporates a large variety of features such as heart monitoring into one device. This bodes well for our seniors who want to avoid the stigmatization of wearing falling monitors while still needing a system for monitoring falls.

  • Lightweight And Slim Design – The improvements in the gyroscope and accelerometer technology has allowed miniaturization of components with performance improvements. Better and accurate fall detectors can easily fit in a wrist worn device while being small in size and lightweight in their manufacture. These design elements make it easier for seniors to wear the device on a long-term basis.
  • Comfortable To Wear – Most wrist worn fall detectors are ergonomically designed to fit around the wrist. They are contoured to fit around snuggly without causing blood flow issues to the hand.
  • Easy To Wear And Use – Modern wrist worn fall detectors are intuitive and easy to use. Wearing them is similar to wearing a typical wristwatch. On the other hand, intuitive software in modern fall detectors is designed with ease of use.

What Are The Cons Of Wrist Worn Fall Detectors?

  • Some Have Poor Location Data – While wrist worn fall detection devices provide the user’s location, i.e., your address, they may not communicate the user’s precise location in a building. This means emergency services may find it hard to locate the user fast enough.
  • Some Are Limited In Capabilities – Many wrist worn fall detection systems have limited capabilities. In some cases, the device is only used to detect falls and nothing else. Such devices waste the real estate on the wrist rather than performing a myriad of functions.

How Do Wrist Models Compare To Medical Alert Pendants?

In terms of accuracy, wrist detectors feature advanced sensors, better computing capabilities, and better software. In many regards, the modern wrist models are more accurate. They perform better in discerning between false alerts and genuine falls.

However, while some areas have seen advancements, other regions are experiencing retardation, especially in wrist worn systems. For instance, some wrist models do not include a two-way talk system, a feature that is standard in many pendant models.

On the aesthetic front, wrist worn fall detectors easily blend in with other accessories a person wears. In some cases, the fall detection feature comes as a feature in smartwatches. For instance, the Apple Watches starting from Series 4 have a fall detection feature. As such, a senior might use these watches as a regular smartwatch while the fall detection feature runs in the background.

What Are the Best Wrist Worn Fall Detectors

Based on all the factors above and my own hours and hours of research, here are the best wrist worn fall notification devices I was able to find.

Mobile Fall Detector

Lively Wearable2 Medical Alert Watch

$49.99 plus plan and activation

The Wearable2 is a simple health tracker and fall detection device. As such, it has a myriad of features. For fall detection, users have access to GreatCall's 5Star Urgent Response. The watch connects immediately with the call center when it detects a fall.

Users also have access to other emergency services, roadside assistance, locksmith, or their caregiver by merely pressing the 5Star button. For fitness tracking, users have to pair the device with the iOS or Andriod app.

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Medical Alert Systems & Monitoring Devices | Medical Guardian

The Freedom Guardian is a smartwatch with fall detection as a key feature. The medical Guardian's 24/7 monitoring services back the watch and ensure users are always monitored. Additional features include an analog clock display, weather forecast, calendar alert, and SMS messaging notification./br Its companion mobile app allows caregivers to view the user's location and alert history. Moreover, the caregiver can add reminders and events from the app.
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Apple Watch Series 5

From Series 4, Apple Watches come with a fall detection system. In addition to the array of apps and features, including fitness tracking, weather notices, heart rate tracking, and alters and reminders, you can use an Apple Watch to detect falls. The fall detection feature is automatically activated for users above the age of 65 and older.

The sleek design uses an advanced gyroscope and accelerometer to detect falls. If a fall is detected, the watch displays a notification, giving users a chance to cancel fall detections. If users do not cancel the alert, emergency services are automatically summoned.

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buddi - The personal emergency alert system

Buddi is a wristband fall detector designed to detect falls and calls help. The soft-rubber strapped contains a suite of sensors that tracks your movement and identifies falls. After that, the wristband initiates communication with a base device such as Buddi Clip or Buddi Connect app to access the phone network and summon help. A notable Buddi feature is the ability to alter fall detection sensitivity, allowing users and caregivers to avoid false detections.

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On the Go + Button Medical Alert System | Medical Alert

On The Go is purely a fall detector without any additional features commonly found in smartwatches. It comes with a two-way speaker system for communicating with the trained personnel in the call center. While users can wear the device on the wrist, they also have a provision for wearing as a pendant. On The Go pairs with a smart-phone sized base device that processes and computes the fall detection data and powers the two-way communication.

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Summary And Final Recommendations

While wrist worn fall detectors are not be-all in the fall detection systems, they are a massive improvement to the traditional fall detection necklaces. Many of the modern fall detection devices are proper health and fitness tracking devices. These devices will notify the caregivers and emergency services when the user, as well as track the overall health of the user.

With their discrete form-factor, exceptional comfort, and stunning performance, seniors can wear the devices all day long. Whether you are a caregiver or a senior looking for a discrete fall detection system, pick your detection system from our list of the best wrist worn fall detectors.

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