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How To Get House Tech That Will Prevent Falling

How To Get House Tech That Will Prevent Falling

My mother, now 88, sufferers from a chronic back condition.  The thought  of her falling is always on my mind.  So I was intrigued to learn about a house tech that will prevent falling. More about that later. Don’t get me wrong. My mother is  far from fragile, and in fact she’s made of strong stuff.

When she was a little girl, for example, she grew up in a small African village where it was frowned on by some small- minded men for girls to seek a college education. Every week one of those hot- headed fools would make his way to her father’s house and spout some nonsense about the evils of selling good cattle to pay for a girl’s eduction. Her father would just smile, offer the jerk some fruit or a drink, the custom  of hospitality had to be acknowledged, and then politely show him the door. The imbecile left  without incident, no doubt thinking my grandfather  would finally “listen to reason” and put a stop to my mother’s ambition.

He didn’t. Instead, he encouraged  her to go as far as her mind would take her. With her father’s support, my mother was able to continue her education. This didn’t mean she was done with the antics  of idiots. Take the time the white school master—  principal here— accused her of spending too much time on her looks. “The fool keeps telling me to rub the lipstick from my mouth. He can’t believe it’s my own flesh. I can’t help it if he thinks I’m trying to be white”, she told her father.

Her father went to have a good talk with the headmaster and my mother was never bothered again. Later she went on to graduate  from nursing school and even went to London to receive advanced training in midwifery and intensive care, making  her a sought after recruit by the US State Department that was responding to a lack of specialized  trained nurses at the time.

Unfortunately her career as a nurse came to an end when she suffered a slipped disk at work. Yes, she’s still made of strong stuff. She is more than her condition and won’t allow her self to be addicted to pain pills and pity.

I’m proud of her, but I still fear that she may one day take a bad fall that would be catastropic for her. It seems that I have good reason to worry. According to CDC, the Center for Disease Control, Each year, millions of older people—those 65 and older—fall. In fact, more than one out of four older people falls each year, but less than half tell their doctor.[1] Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.[2]

With that said, I was excited to learn that a change in walking speed can determine if someone is injured or in danger of falling. Many hospitalizations occur as a result of falls. Thus, it would very helpful for a caregiver  to know how to measure the risk of falling.

Here is Where The Technology  Known as WiGait Comes in

Invented by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and  Artificial Intelligence Laboratory ( CSAIL), and led by Professor Dina Katabi , It ’s a device capable of measuring the walking speed of several individuals using wireless signals.

What’s the goal?  To find out if the quality of your gait can reveal more serious health issues. Identifying changes in someone’s strides (think shorter steps) could help researchers better understand diseases like Parkinson’s, which can be characterized by gradual differences in gait.

tips on measuring walking speed with wireless device
Measuring walking speed with wireless device

Why Go Wireless?

Hey, you may be asking, isn’t an activity tracker like Fitbit or Apple Watch good enough to monitor a person’s walking speed? What else would you want to use to hit that 10,000 steps-a- day goal? Here is the thing. Wearable devices such as the Fitbit work  well when it comes to giving feedback to healthy individuals but are not accurate at slow walking speeds. This means they may only provide a rough estimate of speed based on step count. In other words there might be “ a measurable difference between a good step and a bad step.”[3]

Also, one has to consider if a wearable  device will cause skin or worsen skin irritation.

Unfortunately some medications used to treat ailments associated with chronic pain, such as high blood pressure, have side effects like peeling skin. According to an article in Tech Times, “In 2014, Fitbit faced a class-action lawsuit stemming from a series of reports of users experiencing   skin irritation as a result of using the company’s fitness tracker. Users of the Fitbit Force fitness tracker reported rashes, peeling skin, and blisters.”[4] I am not by any means saying that people shouldn’t use Fitbit. I think for most healthy people, who just want to keep track of how they are doing, Fitbit works fine. However, if you have a skin condition then using  a device that you don’t have to wear is the way to go.

Measuring Walking Speed Using Wireless Signals

As stated, the WiGait was developed by  A group of researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.” In a new paper, the team presents “WiGait,” a device that can measure the walking speed of multiple people with 95 to 99 percent accuracy using wireless signals.” [5]

How it’s displayed

According to its creator, the device is the  size of a small painting and  can be placed on the wall of a person’s house.  its signals emit roughly one-hundredth the amount of radiation of a standard cellphone[6]

Tips on walking sensor
Walking Sensor that’s a size of a painting

How WiGait Works

Tips on how WiGait works
This is how WiGait works

It works by analyzing the wireless signals and how these are reflected off a person’s body. It also uses an algorithm that can differentiate walking from other movements such as those involved when a person brushes teeth or cleans the kitchen. [7]

“By using in-home sensors, we can see trends in how walking speed changes over longer periods of time,” says lead author and PhD student Chen-Yu Hsu. “This can provide insight into whether someone should adjust their health regimen, whether that’s doing physical therapy or altering their medications.” [8]

Conclusion

I was watching golf the other  day with my mother. She is an avid sports fan and follows the PGA schedule the way deadheads used to follow the Grateful Dead. She can tell you about every golf swing the way a deadhead  can explain the guitar  licks of the late  Jerry Garcia. Anyway,  we were sitting in the living room talking about golf swings when my mother decided to get up and get water from the kitchen. She took a couple of unsteady steps, but she made it to the kitchen without incident.

Still, the risk of her falling is always on my mind. Thus, I do everything I can to reduce the risk. I got rid of  several loose rugs and replaced them with hard wood flooring. I removed protruding  chairs  out of the living room. I am continuously looking at her environment to make it safer.

I think the value of WiGait is providing the ability of caregivers to take a less safe environment  and make it more safe for a loved one who is at risk of taking a life-changing fall.

It can also give those of us who live far from our elderly parents a peace of mind. We may be on the other side of the earth and still have the assurance of knowing how well our parent’s are feeling. I can’t think of a better use of technology.

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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.

References:

1.Stevens JA, Ballesteros MF, Mack KA, Rudd RA, DeCaro E, Adler G. Gender differences in seeking care for falls in the aged Medicare Population. Am J Prev Med 2012;43:59–62.

2. O’Loughlin J et al. Incidence of and risk factors for falls and injurious falls among the community-dwelling elderly. American journal of epidemiology, 1993, 137:342-54.

3.

http://mashable.com/2017/05/01/wigait-measures-walk-qaulity/#DSPgC16X.kqk

4. http://news.mit.edu/2017/dina-katabi-csail-team-develop-wireless-system-to-detect-walking-speeds-0501

5. Ibid

6. Ibid

7. Ibid

8. Ibid

 

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “How To Get House Tech That Will Prevent Falling

  1. Your story is very touching. It is good to see the care and concern you have for your mom. I wish WiGait was around back in those days when my grandmother fell and broke her hip. She did not survive the fall, neither did my father-in-law who also fell and didn’t survive. I am all in for this product and will be a voice starting now. This post will be shared with family and friends because we all care about our loved ones. I know they will greatly appreciate this article.

    1. Hi Carol,

      I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother and father-in-law. I extend God’s grace to you. Yes, I too wish WiGait was around much sooner. However, I take comfort in knowing that many  will now benefit  from this amazing technology. I wish you the best.

  2. This is indeed a novelty gadget and I really appreciate the genius minds behind it. The idea of having this at home and even in care homes, nursing homes or homes for the elderly, is a great relief.
    Do you think a similar device would be great for children, especially at stages between crawling and walking. Lots of babies fall down loads of times while trying to take their very first step.

    1. Hi Excelle,

      I think a lot of people wish WiGait was around years earlier. As some people with elderly loved ones have lost them as a result of not surviving a fall. However, you make the very good point that  a similar device to WiiGait would be great for children at the crawling and walking stage. Excellent point. I’ll look into that. I am sure that indeed a device that keeps track of babies movements is in the pipeline or being contemplated by some researcher dealing with technology and health.

  3. Wow! This is an amazing technology. I realized that it is in the developmental stage and not yet ready for mass use. However, I am someone who is constantly worried about my elderly mom taking a bad fall that she may not survive. I feel a lot better that there are people out there who are using non invasive technology to help us monitor a loved one who may be in a fragile state.
    Thanks for the very helpful information.

    1. Hi Rose,
      Yes, I have to agree with you. This is technology that I think can have long term positive consequences in the caring of the elderly. It will not only ensure more safety at home but also play a vital role in identifying nervous diseases like Parkinson’s Disease. Such diseases have shown to often start with reduction in the number and quality of steps taken as someone walks. These are precisely the type of things that WiGait is able to measure.

  4. Great story and an amazing technology. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I’m sure it will bring a level of comfort to all of us who are constantly worried about a loved one falling and hurting themselves badly. I have a friend whose father never recovered from a broken hip that happened as a result of a bad fall. This post really hit home. I wish this technology had been around years earlier. That said, I’ll bookmark your post as I’m sure some of my family will want to read it.

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your friend. Unfortunately, there are still too many incidents of elderly people falling and hurting themselves badly. Still, I think this technology will go a long way in reducing the incidents of falls once it is mass produced and everyone has access to it.

  5. Fantastic!
    This is no doubt a great technology. How I wish it’s produced in large scale already. My mom is old and I am always kind of worried she might fall whenever she is left alone in the house. This would have been a perfect and timely solution to relieve me of such worries. However, I patiently wait till this will be available to all.
    Nice and really helpful post!

    1. Hi Dammy,

      When I first heard about WiGait I was blown away. As i said, I think the value of WiGait is providing the ability of caregivers to take a less safe environment and make it more safe for a loved one who is at risk of taking a life-changing fall. Since writing about this amazing technology I have had inquires from caregivers about when WiGait will be mass produced. I don’t know, but I’ll be on the look out for any new development. As soon as I know, all my readers, such as you, will also be in the loop.

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