Simple Falls are Not Simple for the Senior Crowd

Remember being a child and running everywhere, sometimes falling, getting back up and finding your stride with hardly a moment lost? Even if you scraped your knee you still ran all the way home to get your band aid and kiss.

As we get older the prospect of falling becomes more frightening. Therefore, many physicians assess the likelihood their patients may fall and then decide to what extent steps should be taken to avoid the risk factors that can lead to falls.

To assess such a risk all a doctor needs are a chair and a stopwatch. Then he can administer the “Timed Up and Go” test, or TUG for short. The patient begins by sitting in the chair, then stands up out of the chair and walks about ten feet, turns around, walks back to the chair and sits down. An older person who needs more than about 12 seconds to do this is considered at higher risk for falling, according to the CDC.

The beauty of the test is its simplicity, but its downside is the results are crude: is there a risk of falling? Yes/No. The level of risk is not quantified, leaving doctors and their patients with very little information about what to do next.

A solution to this problem has been found by Kinesis Health Technologies with a device that can reveal the reasons the patient is taking longer to complete TUG. The device is called QTUG, for Quantitative Timed Up and Go. It can measure objectively how well a patient moves by comparing it to a normal person of the same gender and age. The wireless sensing system can also store the information, so the patient’s results can be tracked over time to see if there is a loss of functions such as balance and gait.

The patient’s experience of the QTUG test is almost identical to that of the regular TUG, except that he/she has small wireless sensors attached to the ankles. Using Bluetooth technology information about how the patient shifts his weight and speed, and how he/she walks is transmitted to a computer or tablet for evaluation by a medical professional. Once assessed, the patient and medical professional can decide together how best to reduce the risk of falling.