Do chair alarms help prevent falls in facility setting?

Many times we see our loved ones in hospital and/or nursing homes with a bed or chair alarm attached to alert the nursing staff that the patient is getting up and may fall. This is done usually for patient who are at high risk of falls due to decreased safety awareness. Intuitively this makes sense: we can try to get to the patient before he or she falls; but does it actually work?

A recent retrospective study of 160 patients compared facilities that use these devices with those that don’t and concluded the bed/body alarms did not reduce falls in the elderly population (White H, Cuavers KY. Do Alarm Devices Reduce Falls in the Elderly Population? J Natl Black Nurses Assoc. 2018 Dec;29(2):17-22). Concerns have been expressed that at times patients may get startled when the alarm goes off and fall because of the alarm (though there is little evidence to support this claim). Subjectively, most patients feel restrained by the alarm and don’t seem to like it. If so, we should carefully weigh on case by case basis the benefits vs burdens of using these alarms in our loved ones.