Objectives To examine differences in fall characteristics and emergency service response to older fallers (= 65 years of age), considering their use, or not, of a personal alarm.
Methods A retrospective one month audit of South Australian Ambulance Service records was conducted. Characteristics of ambulance call-outs for falls or alarm activations were described (Sample 1). Alarm-activated services for older fallers were matched (by day and type of service) with fallers who did not use a personal alarm (Sample 2).
Results In Sample 1, 379 of 1700 callers used a personal alarm to call the ambulance, although 58% these alarm-activated calls were false alarms (neither lift nor hospital transport service provided). From Sample 2, most alarm calls were made by females (72%) alone at the time of fall (78%). Ambulance response time did not differ between alarm (median=11 mins) and non-alarm users (median=14 minutes, p=0.56). The difference reflects a clinically non-critical difference in non-life threatening cases. 82% of alarm users and 75% of non-alarm users were on the ground when the ambulance arrived. Of non-alarm users, 11 were self-reported 'long lies' (>one hour) before the ambulance was called, and there were 13 other cases with unknown time on the floor. This compared with 11 self-reported long lies in alarm users.
Conclusion Older women living alone were the major users of personal alarms for assistance after falling. If activated quickly, alarms enabled most fallers to gain ambulance attention within 15 minutes. However, personal alarm use was also associated with a high incidence of false alarms.
Johnston, Kylie; Worley, Anthea; Grimmer-Somers, Karen; Sutherland, Michele; and Amos, Lorraine
"Personal alarm use to call the ambulance after a fall in older people: characteristics of clients and falls,"
Journal of Emergency Primary Health Care:
4, Article 1.
Available at: http://ro.ecu.edu.au/jephc/vol8/iss4/1