How Does Fall Detection in Medical Alert Systems Work?

How Does Fall Detection in Medical Alert Systems Work?

time icon 4 min read update icon Sept. 17, 2019


Some seniors might fear that their use of a medical alert device with a fall detection alert will stigmatize them or cause them undue attention in a crowd. Even if an older adult has never taken a spill, consider that one in four will take a tumble every year, so these devices are well worth it. Also, discrete models are available.


It is a scary statistic that 25 percent of older adults will take a spill this year. What’s more is that after one spill, a senior is twice as likely to fall again and experience even longer periods of recovery.

Seniors who wish to have a discreet device should take heart, as medical alert buttons are no longer the bulky devices they once were, and come in a range of non-intrusive varieties.

Powerful And Reliable Fall Detection Devices

Medical alert devices with fall detection are now more powerful, reliable and tasteful than ever. Many can be embedded in jewelry, smartphones and wristwatches so that they go where the senior goes. Medical alert systems with fall detection can utilize any combination of wearable technology, ambient sensing technology and monitoring sensors to keep seniors in constant contact with medical alert personnel who can stage an intervention in the event of a fall.


  • Wearables:  Many watches and pendants already utilize a series of accelerometers, speed sensors and algorithms to determine whether a senior has taken a spill. This means that the smarter the technology, the less likely a senior will experience a false-positive reading from the device. 
  • Monitoring sensors:  Older adults with known medical conditions that result in dizzy spells or periods of confusion such as Alzheimer’s, type II diabetes and the like should consider investing in monitoring sensors that could alert them to changes in their physiology. These sensors can also be linked to fall detection devices that can get a senior in touch with a call center team so that he or she can get the care they need in a timely fashion.
  • Ambient devices:  If a senior find that they spend more time in the home, monitoring sensors might be a better option, as they can be placed in strategic areas more prone to a slip or fall. That said, it is important to first remove carpets or install handrails, as this could reduce the need for an extremely advanced and more costly system. Still, a senior should investigate whether the sensors meet all their needs. Also, make sure they are waterproof so that they can also be placed in the shower.

By pairing advancements in technology such as speed sensors, accelerometers and algorithmic software with tasteful alert buttons and pendants, fall detection devices no longer carry the stigma they once did. This is great news for older adults that may be at an elevated risk for a fall or spill due to type II diabetes or a similar condition. Having ready access to a wearable device or monitoring system means that a senior no longer has to worry about falling in the home and experiencing a long lie. 

Ultimately, whether an older adult decides to invest in a medical alert system with a wearable, ambient or monitoring fall detection feature is up to them. It is important to note, however, that being covered in the unlikely event of a hard fall could improve a senior’s quality of life and overall ability to age in place longer.

Kate Papenberg - Senior Advisor

Kate is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.