Oakland University, Beaumont researchers aim to help prevent falls among elderly

A multi-disciplinary team of expert investigators from Oakland University and Beaumont Hospitals has begun a research study designed to support the development of a motion monitoring system that helps prevent fall-related injuries among the elderly.

Marisa Ferrari, DNP, and Barbara Harrison, Ph.D., from the Oakland University School of Nursing; Osamah Rawashdeh, Ph.D., from Oakland’s Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering; and Robert Hammond, Ph.D., of the Beaumont Research Institute-Royal Oak; are collecting data that will assist in determining the behaviors and movements that patients in health care settings may experience prior to falling.

The researchers have initiated the study, titled “Clinical Feasibility Trials for the Detection, Characterization and Monitoring of Impulsive Activity in Older Adult Patients,” by observing five healthy, older volunteers performing common movements like standing, sitting and getting out of a bed or chair.

Volunteer subjects are fitted with five sensors – one on each arm and leg, and another on the chest. These detect changes in body position, and particularly those preceding movement from a lying or seated position to standing.

Presently, some hospitals employ video monitoring systems to observe patient movements and reduce falls. By implementing a new method of observation utilizing motion sensors, researchers at OU hope to reduce costs and increase patient privacy.

According to research compiled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one third of U.S. adults 65 and older fall each year. Falls occurring in hospitals may cause serious injury or death and, often, institutions are held accountable.

The OU-Beaumont team of researchers hope to decrease fall rates not only by developing an effective monitoring system, but also by educating others about how falls can be prevented.

The project is funded by the Oakland University schools of Nursing and Engineering and Computer Science.