A huge percentage of injuries, and even fatalities, among people ages 65 and up is the result of a slip and fall accident. As a person gets older, his body is likely to be less stable, whether as a result of a health issue or simply as a natural part of the aging process. In addition to this, many times a senior’s body cannot withstand the same amount of trauma as a younger body can. As a result, if an elderly person falls, his injuries can be much more severe and even fatal than if a middle-aged adult falls.
Researchers are working to decrease the number of these injuries. A lab in Italy recently developed a robotic device that they refer to as the “Active Pelvis Orthosis,” or APO. This device fits around the pelvis and idles at the waist, designed to learn and monitor the natural gait of whoever is wearing it. It does not kick in unless it detects a limb is out of step. It is designed to sense an impending fall within 350 milliseconds and respond by applying torque directly to the erring limb.
The device is unique to the industry in that it does not take over the person’s movements. Researchers agree that this quality is effective, claiming that most elderly who experience these falls typically try to offset the fall on their own, but are not strong enough to do so. This device offers help in the offset of a fall by correcting the person’s center of mass in the instance rather than taking over the person’s walking all together.
The prototype was recently tested on eight elderly people and two people with prosthetic legs. In these trial runs, the people were asked to walk on a treadmill that shifts in order to trigger stumbles while wearing the device. In all of the tests, the subjects were able to stay upright.
Despite the success of the product, researchers believe that there is still a long road ahead before this device can be released for public use. There are many more tests that need to be run to ensure that APO is reliable in real-life situations. Researchers are also still working on the design of the product in hopes to make it less bulky, less heavy, and most of all less expensive.
What to Do After a Slip and Fall
While this device will hopefully make a significant difference in the number of elderly slip and fall injuries in the future, falls are still a prevalent event today, and the personal injuries from these falls can be made worse if you or a loved one don’t exercise caution afterwards.
There are a few steps to practice after a fall:
- Stay Calm: It is easy to get anxious after a fall, but it is important that you control your breathing and attempt to get calm so that you can focus on the next tasks at hand.
- Examine: Before you proceed to get up after a fall, be sure to examine yourself first for any serious injuries such as a bleeding wound or a broken bone.
- Use Furniture: Once you are sure that you are not too seriously injured, it is important to find the nearest sturdy piece of furniture. It is recommended that the piece be heavy and stable like a couch rather than a kitchen chair. If there is not one nearby, it is okay to crawl or drag yourself to the furniture. Kneel with your hands on the furniture, bring one knee forward, and place your foot on the floor. Then, use your arms and legs to push yourself up and pivot until you are sitting on the furniture.
- Stay Seated: After a fall, you are likely to be shaken up a bit. Be sure to rest for a little bit and do not get up until you are confident that you are stable so that you do not hurt yourself.
- Visit a Doctor: No matter how minor the fall, it is always important to visit a doctor and let him examine you to make sure there are no injuries that went without notice.