Smart Floors for Fall Prevention in Residential Aged Care
Falls in older adults occur mostly at home or in aged care facilities
The World Health Organisation has reported falls as a serious health problem for older adults. In Australia, the problem of falls in older adults mostly occur at home or in aged care facilities, with a higher percentage of fall-related deaths in residential aged care settings. In recognition of the significance of this problem and the need for effective fall prevention in residential aged care, numerous initiatives for residential aged care facilities have been proposed, including the potential adoption of technological solutions.
There are various technological initiatives for fall prevention ranging from smartphones, wearable devices and cameras, to smart flooring. Amongst these diverse technological solutions, smart floors technology has been introduced to the public as an effective fall prevention solution through ELSI Smart Sensor Systems. However, little is known about how this technology facilitates fall prevention as there is a lack of scientific evidence to support the claim. To address this concern, a masters research project within the School of Computing and Information Systems, at the University of Melbourne, aims to explore how this technology realises effective fall prevention. This project hopes to contribute an understanding of smart floors for fall prevention so that residential aged care facilities may optimise their use of this technology.
This project is a one-year project spanning two semesters. Through a case study at Assisi Aged Care, the first residential aged care facility in Australia to adopt smart floor technology, the student researcher with the guidance of her supervisors is exploring the real capabilities of this technology and its adoption by aged care staff as its key users.
There are three sources of data in this project. Firstly, falls statistics pre and post-installation. Secondly, 24-hour observation of the use of smart floors over the course of three shifts was undertaken. Smart floors technology alarms send notifications to the mobile phones of staff and deliver announcements in corridors. The final set of data is currently being compiled and comprises one-on-one interviews with eight personal care assistants from three different shifts, the nursing manager, and the management team at Assisi Aged Care, for an integral understanding of the technology use for fall prevention.
The student researcher also conducted an interview with a researcher from the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI), for an expert opinion on technological solutions for fall prevention in residential aged care. Another interview with the ‘smart floors’ expert from HLS, the distributor of ELSI Smart Sensor Systems is also scheduled.
The initial findings from this project highlight the positive feedback from staff, in particular the fact that this technology enables staff to attend to the resident before a fall occurs. In addition, the researcher has been found that a technical issue may be hindering the effective implementation of this technology.
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2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australia's leading causes of death, 2016. 2017 [cited 2018 30 July]; Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3303.0.
3. MariCare, Safety - security - savings: Smart sensor system ELSI, MariCare, Editor. 2015.
4. Wagner, S.R. and F.H.A. Beevi, Healthcare Technology Assessment of Ambient Assisted Living Products for Fall Detection and Activity Tracking of Senior Citizens. Journal of Pervasive Systems Engineering, 2015. 4(1).
[Source: Yolanda Chintanu, Masters student, The University of Melbourne]