Fall Detection Sensors Review
Why Use a Fall Detection Sensor?
The top performers in our review are Medical Guardian, the Gold Award winner; LifeCall, the Silver Award winner; and Medical Care Alert, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 fall detection services.
Who Needs Fall Detection Technology?
Not everyone should use fall detection devices, as the devices may detect false alarms, which can be a hassle. These devices are best for a very specific subset of people: those who frequently fall, those with early dementia or those with diabetes. To determine if fall detection is the best system for you, check with your primary care physician.
If you don't fall into one of these categories, most companies recommend starting with a basic medical alert system, without fall detection, to see what works best for you. Check out our Medical Alert Systems site for more information on these systems.
If you're frequently on the go but want the security of a medical alert device, look into the GPS Medical Alert Systems reviews.
Why Fall Detection?
While fall detection is not for everyone, it can be the difference between life and death for those who need it. Falls can result in critical injuries, like those to the head and hips, and are the leading cause of loss of independence for the elderly. These injuries can lead to hospitalization or prompt a move to an assisted living facility. The longer someone remains unassisted, the less likely it becomes that he or she will make a full recovery. While fall detection is a great system, keep in mind that it does not detect 100% percent of falls.
Sometimes, a family might want an elderly relative who is prone to falling to live with them or to live in an assisted living facility. While a family's concern is real, it is not easy for someone to give up an autonomous lifestyle. The best fall detection sensors can bridge the gap between family member's concerns and someone's desire to stay independent.
These devices will alert help in the event of a life-threatening situation, helping you maintain your independence and helping your family maintain their peace of mind.
Increase Response Times
Falls can be debilitating, or even life threatening, and threaten seniors' way of life. Falls often result in injuries to the head or hips, which leads to long-term complications and loss of independence. The faster help arrives, the better the chances of recovery are.
This technology can prove invaluable in times when you may be unconscious or too disoriented to seek assistance. Your wearable fall detection sensor detects if you have fallen and alerts help when you are unable to push the button yourself.
Assisted living facilities can cost thousands of dollars a month for a single room apartment. If you do not require constant care but don't feel comfortable being completely alone, a fall detection sensor is a good option.
The cost of these devices and the accompanying service fees is much lower than the rates you would pay at an assisted living facility.
How Does Fall Detection Work?
Fall detectors use specialized technology to measure your movements and the position of your body. These devices can tell the difference between everyday movements and emergencies. For example, the device can tell if you are just laying down or if there is a sudden change in direction as a result of a fall.
Many fall detectors use accelerometers and gyroscopes to measure the changes in direction or acceleration of your movement. These monitoring tools use careful calculations that enable a sensor to tell the difference between a fall and other movements.
Another feature included with this technology is movement-monitoring, which monitors your movement up to 30 seconds after an abrupt change in direction. If after 30 seconds the device does not detect movement, it will alert help. This 30-second window reduces the occurrence of false alerts. For example, without this monitoring, the device may alert help every time you drop it or bang it against the counter while doing dishes.
Fall Detection Sensors: How We Tested & What We Found
To evaluate each service and provide the fairest comparison, we tested each service's basic fall detection package. Each service has similar basic features, so your choice may come down to things like comfort of the pendant, reliability and customer service.
Range of Your Fall Detection Sensor
The distance you can take your pendant from the base unit is an important thing to consider when selecting an automatic fall detection system. Many companies claim a range on their website as the maximum distance a pendant can be away from the base unit and still communicate a reliable signal to the base unit.
The companies' procedures to define these ranges vary; sometimes these are centered on a setup where there are obstacles, similar to a home that may interfere with signals. Others base these claims on ideal connections, where there are no walls or barriers obstructing a signal. To test these figures, we conducted our own independent range tests.
The first test we conducted was a maximum range test where we set up each device in a field free of obstructions and used the system at progressively greater distances until the pendant and base unit no longer communicated reliably. Some of the devices exceed the claimed ranges, while others underperformed against the claimed ranges. In our tests, LifeCall, Alert 1 and SafeGuardian each performed well.
The second test we conducted simulated an at home environment with walls and other barriers for the signal to travel through. In general, systems predictably did not transmit as far as they did in the interference-free tests. The systems with the longest indoor ranges provide the greatest reliability and support that an alert would be sent in the event of an emergency.
Battery Life of Your Fall Detection System's Base Unit
A backup battery safeguards against power outages. Even when the power goes out, you often still have a landline connection. Because of this, you need to rest assured that you could still send an alert signal, even in the event of a power outage. To verify the length and reliability of a unit's battery life, we conducted independent tests of the batteries.
To test these unit's, we fully charged each battery station and tracked how long each station could continue to operate without being charged. The industry average is about 30 hours. It is important to note that the average power outage in America last from one to four hours, so these base units should last long beyond that timeframe, ensuring you're protected. However, it is important to test these features because sometimes the actual battery life does not match what the company claims, which could result in you left being unprepared in the event of an emergency.
Reliability of a Fall Detection Sensor
Each system we evaluated offers fall detection. You wear the sensor as a pendant around your neck, above or below your clothing, depending on the manufacturer's recommendations. These systems use technology in the devices to detect if a fall has occurred. While fall detection is a great benefit, no device or service promises to detect 100 percent of falls. Do not depend on fall detection as a failsafe feature; instead, think of it as a great addition and backup plan – you should always push the button if able.
While most services do not make concrete claims about accuracy of fall detection, the industry claims a standard of about 95 percent. However, these devices cannot detect all types of movement and might miss certain falls. To test the fall detection accuracy, we dropped the pendants from varying heights, starting at 18 inches and working up to higher heights. We also wore the pendants around our necks as instructed and simulated fall.
In our tests, the devices were moderately consistent on whether or not they detected a fall. On average, sensors detected about 75 percent of falls across the board. This was the norm and a score of 75 percent does not mean a sensor performed poorly in our hands on tests.
Some devices, like Safe Guardian, responded instantly to a fall while others, like ResponseNow, took up to 53 seconds to respond. Length of a response when detecting a fall is an important but personal factor. A slower response time means you may be left waiting; however, devices that respond right away might lead to multiple false alarms each day.
Customer Service With Fall Detection
Customer service is an important part of choosing a fall detection system. More likely than not, you will interact with your service provider on a regular basis for check-ins and if there are ever false alarms. Customer service is especially important since you will rely on support during emergencies or if something ever goes wrong with your fall detection sensor.
To test customer support, we called each company and went through the process of ordering a medical alert system with fall detection included. We rated each interaction with representatives based on several factors: the attempt to repeatedly upsell products, the pushiness of the representatives, the willingness to listen to concerns and the presence of thoughtful answers to our questions. We also conducted follow-up calls as customers after we had purchased service. In these tests, Rapid Response performed well. The representatives did not try to push us into buying additional products and thoroughly answered our questions.
Stand Alone Fall Detection Service & Monthly Service
The majority of fall detection systems work hand-in-hand with a more advanced medical alert system. These systems require monthly payments for equipment rental and access to a monitoring station. With these services, when you push your alert button, it connects you to a call center, where agents are trained to respond to medical emergencies. These call centers operate 24/7, so you are always able to access help. Many people find this service valuable, but others prefer different options.
While most fall detection systems come with a monthly service fee, there are other options. ATS Elderly Fall Detection does not come with a monthly service or access to a monitoring center. When you purchase ATS, you buy the equipment upfront and program the device, which connects through your landline, to call designated numbers. This is a good option if you have friends and family members that live close to you and could respond quickly and reliably to your emergencies. This is a good option if you do not feel you need 24/7 monitoring and do not want to pay a monthly service fee, read our articles for more about these different options.
Most Looked-For Features With Fall Detection Sensors
Basic packages for medical alert systems vary. When you add fall detection onto your service or upgrade to fall detection, you can still add more premium features to your medical alert system. The premium features you select depend on your needs, so it is important to evaluate them carefully. Here are the premium features that we determined to be the most valuable additions to a medical alert system with fall detection.
Some companies provide mobile GPS alert systems along with medical alert fall detection sensing. This is a great add-on if you frequently travel outside of the home and are worried about falling. Your add-on device works off cellular service and connects directly to the monitor center when you leave the home; it syncs back up with your home system when in range.
If you do not have a landline or do not want to use your landline for your fall detection monitoring, you can add on cellular service. With this service, your connection to the monitoring station runs through a cell service provider instead of through your landline. Many companies offer this service for only a small additional fee per month.
A lockbox, purchased or rented through your fall detection system provider, stores your house key somewhere outside of your home. Lockboxes are reinforced to withstand damage and can only be opened using a code that you set. This secured, storage unit allows emergency personnel or friends and family responding to a fall to access your home, saving time and preventing damage to your home.
Depending on the size or your home, you will not always be near your base station when an emergency occurs. Sometimes, there are areas of your home that are far from the base station, making it difficult to communicate with the monitoring station. A voice extender can bridge this gap. Equipped with microphones and speakers, voice extenders ensure you can communicate with the monitoring station even when you're not near the base unit.
Make sure to find the premium features that best fit in your life and assimilate with your daily life so that your fall detection system enhances your day-to-day activities and does not disrupt them.
Verdict & Recommendations
Throughout our research, three fall detections systems stood out – LifeCall, Alert 1 and Medical Guardian. These services rose above the competition due to their superior performance in our hands-on testing in operating range and fall detection sensing. Alert 1 had the longest unobstructed range and exceeded the company's claimed distance, while LifeCall had the longest indoor range that we tested.
Even though not listed in the top three, other services we tested merit mention. Medical Care Alert warrants mention for its easy-to-use base station and friendly, amiable customer service. We also found ATS Elderly Fall Detection to be a good value choice. You can purchase the unit for a one-time fee and set up the system to call friends and family rather than a monitoring station.
When selecting a fall detection sensor, you should carefully examine the options and select the system that works best in your life. Fall detection is a good backup system to have as part of a medical alert system; though, you should remember it is important to always push the button if able and to not rely on fall detection 100 percent of the time.