COLUMBIA, Mo. – Researchers at the University of Missouri have developed a sensor system that can be used to predict a fall within a three-week period. Their work raises the possibility that healthcare providers and caregivers can detect changes in a patient and intervene before a fall occurs. . “Being able to predict that a person is at risk of falling will allow caretakers to intervene with the necessary care to help seniors remain independent as long as possible,” said Marilyn Rantz of the Sinclair School of Nursing at UM, one of the study leaders. The 10-year study of 23 residents of a retirement home logged baseline gait speed and stride length data through a depth sensor. Researchers noted falls, and analyzed the association between pre-fall deviations in gait speed and stride length and known falls. The data showed that within three weeks of a one-week decline in walking speed of 2.54 centimeters per second, residents were four times more likely to experience a fall than a resident with no cumulative gait change or a minimal cumulative gait change. A gait speed decline of 5 centimeters per second was associated with an 86.3% chance of falling within three weeks, while an overall decrease in stride length was associated with a 50.6% chance of falling within the same time period.
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