Perspectives on use of personal alarms by older fallers
Kylie Johnston1, Karen Grimmer-Somers1, Michele Sutherland2
1International Centre for Allied Health Evidence, University of South Australia, Adelaide; 2Falls Prevention Unit, Department of Health, Government of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Background: Personal alarms are proposed as a reliable mechanism for older people to obtain assistance after falling. However, little is known about how older people feel about owning and using personal alarms.
Aim: This paper reports on experiences of independently living older people, who have recently fallen, regarding alarm use and their independence.
Method: Volunteers older than 65 years who had sustained a fall in the previous six months were sought via community invitations. Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted to gain information about their fall and their perspectives on personal alarm use. Interviews were content-analyzed to identify key concepts and themes.
Results: Thirty-one interviews were conducted. Twenty callers owned personal alarms. Four subgroups of older fallers were identified; the first group used personal alarms effectively and were advocates for their benefits, the second group owned an alarm but did not use it effectively, the third group did not own alarms mostly because of cost, although were receptive to an alarm should one be provided, and the fourth group did not have an alarm and would not use it even if it was provided.
Discussion: Personal alarms produce positive experiences when used effectively by the right people. The cost of personal alarms prohibits some older fallers from being effective alarm users. However, other elderly fallers remain unwilling to consider alarm use even if one was provided. In view of their cost, personal alarms should be targeted to people who will benefit most. Alternative strategies should be considered when alarms are unlikely to be used appropriately.
Keywords: personal alarm devices, falls, older people, patient perspective