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Hospital alarms fail to prevent injury, study finds

The New York Times, December 14, 2012

When it comes to protecting older people from falls, it can take a long time to figure out what helps and sometimes an even longer time to take action against things that were supposed to help but don't. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is finally investigating these hazards, with findings due soon. Use of alarms—sensors that alert aides or nurses when someone at risk of falling attempts to get out of bed or up from a chair or toilet—has increased "over the past 10 or 15 years as the problems of physical restraints and bed rails became better known," said Ronald Shorr, who directs geriatric research at the V.A. Medical Center in Gainesville, Fla. "This was the next wave in fall prevention." The trouble is, hospital bed alarms don't appear to reduce falls, according to the study that Dr. Shorr just published in The Annals of Internal Medicine.