September is nationally recognized as Falls Prevention Awareness Month. During this time, a special focus is placed on raising awareness about ways that seniors — and those who care for them — can prevent falls, the most common accident experienced by older adults. But of course the information highlighted during this time is valuable all year.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-fifth of assisted living residents are injured in falls every year. Unsteadiness caused by medications, as well as obstacles in the living environment, can contribute to falls.

Preventing falls in senior living communities is much like preventing them in a traditional home. The following prevention strategies can go a long way toward keeping older adults safe in their living spaces:  

  • Install handrails in stairways, hallways and bathrooms to ensure steadiness.
  • Clear all clutter, and arrange furniture to create walking space.
  • Immediately clean up spills when they occur.
  • Ensure that older adults don’t stand on furniture to reach for items.
  • Help seniors to always keep walking aids close by.
  • Encourage older adults to have a flashlight within reach and a nightlight in the bedroom in case they need to get out of bed in the middle of the night.

Artificial intelligence can play a role

Bethesda Orchard, a Bethesda Health Group community in St. Louis, is among the senior living and care communities and hospitals that are using VirtuSense Technologies, or VST. This approach uses artificial intelligence to help prevent falls. The motion-based technology was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center.

Although this technology is relatively new, at Bethesda Orchard, we have screened approximately 40 of our 180 residents since we started using it in August.

How it works:

Many senior falls are avoidable through the identification of issues with balance, gait and overall function of the body. VST uses technologies that allow care providers to detect deficits before a fall or other serious injury occurs. Healthcare professionals can use VST’s evidence-based technology to identify these deficits and create a personalized exercise or therapy plan in response. Each person’s plan will be different and unique to her or his own needs.

Members of Bethesda’s community particularly enjoy VST’s game feature, designed to work on balance and hand-eye coordination. Our residents enjoy playing games that require using their hands to slice virtual vegetables that appear to fly across the screen, or leaning side to side as they snow ski downhill. 

Once residents are screened, our employees take the results to craft tailored plans for each individual resident. We then are able to identify fall risks, and wellness coordinators and physical therapists can see specific weaknesses in the tested resident. This personalized care allows us to successfully prevent falls and other injuries, contributing to our ultimate goal of providing exceptional senior living care and services.