When it comes to tools to prevent elderly patients from falling, a haptic insole could become key. Falling is one of the major causes of morbidity in patients over the age of 65. A third of 65+ and 50% of 80+ people fall at least once a year. This can cause pain, injuries, distress, loss of confidence, and loss of independence. For that reason, preventing falls in the elderly is of high importance. The American Geriatrics Society and CDC both recommend screening older patients and identifying those at high risk of falling. The key is to assess balance and gait parameters, as well as pressure, and sensory thresholds.
Factors that increase the risk of falling and how to assess health parameters
Vital signs are indicators of functional health. Gait speed is the 6th vital sign, right alongside temperature and respiration rate. It can predict survival in patients above the age of 65, as well as show damaged health. Walking requires energy and movement control. It also relies on the support of the heart, lungs, and musculoskeletal systems. Walking speed can thus be a warning sign for issues that could reduce survival in the elderly.
Another factor to take into consideration is pressure. Measuring pressure across the foot can help show deformities in the feet. These increase with age and can increase fall risks. Pronation of the foot can increase with age as medial contact of the midfoot and medial displacement of the center of pressure increase. Through monitoring pressure, we can detect these issues.
A third factor is balance. Balance changes with age. The inner ear, eyes, proprioception, feet sensation, and the brain, all work together to maintain balance. With age, these systems decline and can lead to increased falls in the elderly. To be more specific, it was shown that vibration perception thresholds (measure of sensation) and proprioception in the feet decline with age. This thus reduces balance, postural sway, and stability, leading to falls. Another important factor in fall prevention would be muscle reflex. The skin stimuli’s ability to cause muscle reflexes also declines with age. The last factor associated with aging is an increased prevalence of peripheral neuropathy. All these factors contribute to increased risks of falls in the elderly.
So how can we prevent falls in the elderly, using all the parameters discussed above?
To assess the number of falls in the elderly, it is recommended to ask them how many times they have fallen in the last 6 months. But falls stay underreported. Ways to assess fall risks are through gait, pressure monitoring, and haptic vibration.
Fall prevention through gait and pressure monitoring
To assess fall risk and prevent it, a focused history is essential. Details of the fall, its circumstances, factors, and consequences are all relevant. Following that, gait, balance, lower limb, and joint function testing will allow a comprehensive geriatric assessment. Blood pressure, vision, feet and footwear ought to be checked as well. All this is quite unrealistic for healthcare providers to do on a regular basis.
Fall prevention through haptic feedback and vibration
Subsensory and suprasensory vibrations can prevent falls in the elderly. How so? By allowing the foot to better sense the ground. Subsensory vibrations increase the likelihood of you sensing the floor whilst suprasensory vibrations enhance floor sensation. Improved stability and fall reductions have been shown in amputees, Parkinson’s patients, and stroke disease patients, as well as in healthy elderly and young adults.
Falls can also be prevented with the help of step-synchronization. Vibrations can actually improve balance more efficiently when they are step-synchronized.
How Path Feel helps decrease falls and help healthcare professionals identify risks
Path Feel can be a big help to healthcare professionals. By identifying the risks of falls in their elderly patients, they can decrease the number of falls and increase the survival rate. By measuring pressure, gait, and balance, Path Feel is an important factor in fall prevention. By monitoring a wide range of balance and gait parameters, the person’s general health and fall risks are measured. It can thus detect falls. The person’s gait is measured by:
Gait cycle time
Stance foot flat
Pressure loads across the foot
Pressure distribution over time
Double support time
Full walking distance
Posture differentiation (sitting, standing, walking)
Peak angle velocity
Max swing speed
3D path length
Centre of Pressure (COP)
Ground reaction force (GRF)
Rotational force (torque)
Measuring pressure, age-related changes in gait parameters, and haptic feedback
Path Feel encompasses many unique benefits. As an insole, it is able to measure foot pressure. This gives the Path Feel app a wide array of information that Fitbit and other smartphone apps cannot provide.
Gait changes that have declined due to age can be monitored by Path Feel as well. Whether they are temporal, spatial, or pertain to variability, they contribute to fall risk in the elderly. Path Feel can therefore compare the user’s score to the age norm and flag up concerns that could prevent falls.
Because Path Feel is an insole, its Unique Selling Point is its ability to sense changes in foot pressure, enable step synchronization, and provide vibrations to reduce to postural sway.
With all this insight, users and healthcare professionals can spot fall risks in elderly patients and intervene. From medical intervention, to exercise recommendations and lifestyle modifications, this can go a long way in preserving elderly patients’ health.
Download the White Paper
Path Feel insoles measure parameters that lead to fall risk in elderly patients. Providing insights on pressure, gait and haptic feedback play a large role in the prevention of falls. Complete the following form to get the Efficacy of a Haptic Insole in Elderly Patients White Paper.