Bringing Falls into View

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New video-monitoring system could help prevent falls in people with dementia.
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Falls are a leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits in elderly Canadians over the age of 65.
For older adults, a fall does not just lead to bruises—it can also lead to severe injury or death. The risk of falling is particularly high in older adults with dementia who are four to five times more likely to experience falls. 
 
Researchers have been developing systems to assess fall risk in older adults, particularly in long-term care settings where as many as 80% of residents have dementia. But most of these systems have only been tested in a laboratory and are not yet tailored to assess the risk of falling in real-world situations. 
 
To address this clinical need, KITE Research Institute Scientists Drs. Andrea Iaboni and Babak Taati and her team developed AMBIENT—a vision-based monitoring system that can be used to unobtrusively monitor stability and gait in real-life settings.
 
They tested the system in a recent study, by recording episodes of walking in older adults with dementia who had been admitted to a specialized dementia inpatient unit at Toronto Rehab. By carefully analyzing information that was gathered over a two-week period, they were able to identify gait patterns that predicted falls in study participants.
 
“The AMBIENT system gives us the flexibility to frequently and discreetly measure gait in real life, as people move around naturally through their home environment,” says Dr. Iaboni. “As a result, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to develop interventions that are tailored to individual patients to reduce the risk of falling.”
 
This work was supported by the Alzheimer’s Association, Brain Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, FedDev Ontario, the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, the University of Toronto, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, AGE-WELL NCE, the Walter Maria Schroeder Institute for Brain Innovation and Recovery, and the Toronto Rehab Foundation. 
 
Mehdizadeh S, Dolatabadi E, Ng KD, Mansfield A, Flint A, Taati B, Iaboni A. Vision-based assessment of gait features associated with falls in people with dementia. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Aug 20. pii: glz187. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glz187. PubMed PMID: 31428758.