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wandering, dementia falls, electronic tracking

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Falls are expensive and often life-changing events. In 2000 there were 2.6 M non-fatal falls that cost the US economy in excess of $19 B. Fall prediction is an inexact science due in part to the lack of real-time or even near real-time longitudinal monitoring and assessment technologies which can track conditions preceding a fall. Current fall prediction methodologies assess gait and balance parameters at perhaps one or two points in time and attempt to infer future risk. A system for elders that is analogous to the 'black box' flight recorder used in commercial aviation could potentially enhance our knowledge of how fall risks increase over time and what interventions may be successful. This paper describes a system which relies on miniature transponders and fractal mathematics to determine the tortuosity of elders’ paths as they traverse open areas within assisted living facilities. It provides background for the development of the concept, especially as it was influenced by earlier research by Professor James L. Fozard. Preliminary data are presented indicating an association between inter-day path variability and the likelihood of falls in elders residing in an assisted living facility.

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Gerontechnology, v. 9, issue 3, p. 388-396