UPDATE: A Canadian Solution to the Philips Lifeline Recall?

Recent news of the tragic death of 72-year-old Elizabeth Bell from Alberta who was strangled by her Philips Lifeline non-breakaway medical alert pendant has health services across the country scrambling for safe alternatives.

Technology has made substantial advances in senior care since the panic pendant boom started well over 25 years ago. -Aysha Mendes.

Aysha Mendes, Close to Home Health & Safety Monitoring March 23, 2015

Although the United States Food and Drug Administration, FDA became aware of at least four choking deaths involving the pendants back in 2009, it took until 2011 for the company to stop producing them – and until now, for them to issue a recall. The year Philips was warned about the risk, it released a warning regarding the strangulation risk posed by the pendants, particularly among people using a walker – such as Elizabeth Bell, who appears to have paid the price almost 6 years later for the company’s failure to recall the product earlier.

Medical alerts must come with breakaway cords, fatality inquiry concludes 1:37 CBC News Edmonton

The same year in which Philips released this warning, the company began producing a new model of their pendant with a breakaway cord which comes apart when the user exerts pressure on it. The judge who issued the fatality report of Elizabeth Bell recommended that health authorities ensure all Lifeline emergency necklaces are used with breakaway cords.

However, while the safety mechanism on the newer model is a welcome improvement, this incident raises questions about whether health services should be considering non-corded devices altogether. The thought of a faulty breakaway cord on one of the new pendants, or of an older person who cannot gather up enough strength to exert the necessary pressure to activate the breakaway mechanism might push health services to seek out alternatives.

The Close to Home in-home sensor system, which has newly launched in Canada may have come at just the right moment. The sensors can be placed around a senior’s home, without wires or drilling, to learn routine activities and send notifications when there’s a hazardous change in activity. The key to this technology is the ability to alert a specified loved one or emergency response in case of a potential emergency – when they won’t or can’t use a wearable device.

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