Medical alert systems are meant to be the front line protectors of elderly, a surefire way to call for help in a dire situation. Personal emergency buttons come in many shapes and forms, and the companies all swear to safeguard their aging customer’s well being. However, there are always exceptions or unfortunate events where the device fails to do its duty. There are instances when the button’s signal cannot reach the monitoring center, the base units are sending false alarms or are just not operational during the emergency. Still, the most controversial feature is the fall detection, which isn’t guaranteed to work accurately 100% of the time, yet it’s often advertised as being perfect. Philips Lifeline is undoubtedly guilty in these senses, which lead to an unfortunate demise to one of their customers.
When Fall Detection Fails to Save a Life
The elderly McDonald couple from Foxborough was using a Philips Lifeline medical alert pendant. Previously they used the basic model, but because the elderly couple uses wheelchairs, their children pressed them to step up their medical alert protection and opt for a button with patented fall detection technology. On the evening of July 17 2014, the elderly Mr. McDonald found his wife lying on the bathroom floor. She fell to the ground, but the auto alert system of the fall detection button didn’t notice it, and thus no one was noticed. Mr. McDonalds lost his wife, and he and his family blamed Philips Lifeline for this, suing the company for their flaw. As mentioned earlier, the senior was already familiar with the Lifeline products, and in previous emergencies those devices proved to be working, which is the reason why the family decided give fall detection a try, since they deemed it even safer.
Fall Detection: A Questionable Service?
This isn’t the first time Philips Lifeline’s fall detection technology failed to save the wearer’s life. An elderly woman from Lutz shared the same fate as Mrs. McDonalds, and she also used the company’s auto alert button. Philips Lifeline states that their fall detection works only 95% of the time, and certain situations may stop the button from activating. The automatic fall detection pendant is using accelerometers, highly sensitive barometric sensors and an algorithm that is meant to differentiate a fall and sitting down, for instance. The problem is, this kind of technology is most suited to pick up the drastic height changes produced when a standing adult suddenly collapses. However, the button might miss the more subtle signs. When the wearer faints, and slowly slips to the ground, or falls from less than 0.5 meter, then the algorithm won’t raise the alarm.
Inform Yourself Prior to Your Purchase
Knowing the flaws and exceptions of the fall detection proves to be vital for aging users. As you can see, the McDonalds family bought the fall detection pendant from Philips Lifeline because they wanted extra protection for the wheelchair-using seniors, yet the wheelchair itself could be the very reason why the button didn’t register the fall, as the elderly woman probably slipped out of it, instead of falling. The company claims they let their customers know about the 5% error margin, but the family denies being informed about it at the time of purchase. Checking Lifeline’s website confirms this, as the page advertising the fall detection button doesn’t mention the 95% rate, or the possible exceptions. You need to access the on-site manual to learn about said details.
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