Apple Watch and Fall Detection -- It Really Works!

As related to a nearby thread on Apple Watch and the experienced benefits of ECG and Apple Health for other TidBit(ters?-ties?), I totally forgot till just now (when a surprisingly already-tender bruise suddenly reminded me) that a couple folks here might be interested to know that Apple Watch Fall Detection actually works, and really damn well (maybe too well).

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I managed to fall in a restroom at the gym this evening, and somehow also managed to get myself wedged between the commode and the wall; I dinged my cheek bone on the porcelain (or maybe the flush handle/plumbing) on the way down, and my left elbow and knee got bumped pretty good; but worst of all, I got wedged in such a manner that my Apple Watch was trapped beneath my hip, and I didn’t hear it calling not only 911, but my emergency contacts.

Admittedly I was a bit disoriented, but most frustrating was that my Parkinson’s wouldn’t let me talk to my own muscles to get up and get myself out of the trap; I was facing the wrong way to reach the grab bars; I couldn’t get any leverage in the (thankfully flushed) bowl; I couldn’t even see my walker, which held my iPhone, from my porcelain and ceramic prison; but I was generally suppressing my panic remembering that I could always call for help to the stragglers still showering and dressing before closing time; that a staff member would surely be in to mop at some point; and that a loud 'Hey Siri… ’ was always an option.

To be totally honest, while it was definitely a selling point on the Series 4, I completely forgot I had even enabled FD in the first place; and while I could feel it tapping and vibrating the bejeezus out of my wrist for the first couple minutes I was on the floor, in my confused and slightly panicked state, I dismissed it as being an alarm or timer I forgot about (I often set timers for my workouts and PT).

Anyway, before I managed to get myself fully extracted and back on my feet, I started hearing lots of commotion in the locker room, and suddenly realized I was who these loud voices were asking if “Is anyone in distress?”, etc., and before I could reply – and make myself decent – a fireman… errr… fireperson was pounding on the stall door and looking under the partition.

Humiliating. Absolutely humiliating.

I was also shocked to learn that it had been over nine minutes between my fall and her discovery, so maybe I was more disoriented than I thought.

Of course there was lots of paramedic drama and multiple refusals for transport to the hospital (I already had too much hospital boredom food last weekend, thanks; I’m at the gym to swim it all back off); plus I had to figure out how many of my contacts had to be notified to stand down (that was a treat).

Thankfully I didn’t have to further suffer much of a germaphobic OCD panic attack, as Boulder does a great job of not letting the handicap stall floors get too disgusting, and, obviously, a second shower was merely a few yards away.

That reminds me, I had another fall (due to passing out from the pain of what turned out to be passing a gallstone) in July in my own shower while wearing my Series 3; thank goodness for that mistake (I usually have it on the charger in my office while showering), and I also couldn’t make my muscles respond to reach my oh-so-close-but-can’t-quite-snag-it panic button that lives in the shower; I have “housemates” on a separate floor, but they couldn’t hear me (and I’m not sure I was even able to make much sound through the continually spasming pain); when it finally occurred to me that I could just 'Hey Siri… ’ that beautiful black rectangle on my wrist, and rescue was there in mere minutes.

That time I happily took the ambulance ride – and the morphine, oh, thank you, morphine, Ativan, etc. – as that was already hour seven of excruciating, breathtaking, tear-streaming spasmodic pain, to the point where, as stated, I literally passed out from blinding, unbreathable agony (while seated, no less).

I had no idea I was passing a stone; I thought it was just yet another bizarre neuropathy/neuralgia my body has been experiencing these past few years. I’ve had some wicked injuries, but that, my friends, is something I wish on no one (well, maybe a couple of current world leaders).

I was shocked to hear from several mothers who also had passed gallstones, and they said they’d happily trade it for more childbirth. That really surprised me; as men, we are generally taught we are being babies for complaining about pain when mothers lord childbirth over our heads.

Anyway, buy an Apple Watch for yourself or anyone you consider a fall risk; that’s two demonstrations for me inside six months that it is pretty much a permanent part of my future.


Thank goodness for that working for you @frederico, you’ve been through it. Some product testing I am sure you could have done without but grateful it was there. Glad your independence is what all this bolsters even as it connects you to those you need to support you.


Thanks for the anecdote @frederico. I’m always interested in Parkinson’s stories. My sweetheart (bride/lover/best friend) of 40 years had Parkinson’s and I was her full time caregiver the last 7 years of her life. Since then I have stayed very active with 2 different PD support groups and the Wisconsin Parkinson’s association, sharing what knowledge I have acquired as a caregiver and gleaning additional info to share.

I think your anecdote would be of value to others with Parkinson’s, from it’s humor, your willingness to share the story and the benefits of the Apple Watch 4.

Would you have any objection if I shared this with my PD Support groups?

Thanks for your consideration.


Cheers, to both of you.

Yes, you may absolutely share if you think it useful in some way; I shared the embarrassingly amusing adventure specifically to encourage others to consider the clearly functional, demonstrative benefits of Apple Watch in a genuine emergency. I might just as easily have whacked my brain (and given my disorientation, I’m not certain I didn’t), rather than just my cheekbone.

[Full disclosure: I do not (yet) have a definitive diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease; I officially, currently, have Parkinson’s Syndrome (of unknown origins). But most of my Father’s side had PD, including Father, so I’m just not going to be shocked if I got it twenty years earlier. ]

I’m glad you’re still involved in supporting others negotiating the difficulties and accidental joys of PD; and I’m sorry for your loss. And from one caregiver to another, thank you for giving that gift — but I’m certain I need not tell you that you’re the one who received the greater gift in caring for your beloved.



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Thank you, I know many in the PD groups will benefit from your story.

You are absolutely correct, I certainly received great benefit from being able to take care of her, full time for those last 7 years. I had promised her she would never go in a nursing home and she would pass in bed next to me, and I am blessed that I was able to keep both of those promises.

She had a very aggressive and sever case of Parkinson’s, which was not helped by her prior orthopedic injuries. For the last 6 years she was non-ambulatory, non-weight bearing, unable to speak, and praise the Lord, tube fed, which allowed us to have those 6 years together. She could not move a muscle the last two years due to sever dystonia, but every day she smiled and laughed and was a blessing to all who encountered her. He motto was always, “If your not having fun, you’re doing something wrong!”.

So she was my total experience with PD until spring of 2016 when I finally found a support group (2 of them actually). The first time I went I was almost in shock. To my eyes no one there had PD. They were walking and talking, not what I expected. So my relationship with the support groups has been awesome for me and apparently for them, because they embrace my presence.

I wish you well.

Thanks again.


The spectrum of Parkinson’s disease is as baffling as it is wide.

The differences I saw in Father, and my father‘s family, alone, were confusing; and then that does not even consider with what medications or physical therapy they were being treated with.

Finding effective treatment for each person‘s Parkinson’s, is not unlike guessing their absolute favorite shade of blue without them telling you. It’s a gigantic years-long guessing game of trial and error at this stage. We can only hope that continued investment in research will eventually provide a fast track to a correct diagnosis and treatment plan.

Thank you, very much, for sharing your experience.

I’ve always known the TidBITS community to be a great one; getting back in touch in recent months and rediscovering the humanity and kindness that is prevalent here is extremely refreshing as compared to other social networks.




I second this, and I was very involved with the increasing levels of caregiving necessary to keep my mother’s now deceased boyfriend of over 25 years. He suffered from Parkinson’s for almost 20. One thing our family found helpful is to keep in mind the many research efforts going on across the globe to find better treatments and cures. Fall detection in Apple Watch’s fall dectection, reminders, etc. are just one example of something that can help people with disabilities live more safely and independently.

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my watch detected a fall, too, but unlike your unfortunate one, mine was a weird false alarm. i was riding bike with some chums. we pulled into a carpark to see off one of my chums. i unclipped and put my foot down. felt a vibration from my wrist. looked down to see the watch all concerned that i’d fallen.

wonder if apple ever finds out about false alarms. doubt it, but does anyone know?

An educated guess is that it’s in Apple’s best interests to keep tabs on the rates of positives/negatives to make adjustments for more accurate responses. Fall detection, EKG, etc. are just a few of the many things that distinguish Apple Watch as a health, fitness and safety watch. It separates them from what’s now the plain vanilla fitness watch pack.

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That actually sounds like a fairly understandable false alarm, since you would have been moving more quickly than normal due to being on the bike, and then come to a rather abrupt stop, with a foot down to provide the impression of shock. I can easily see that being sufficiently similar to the readings the watch would take during a real trip and fall.

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yours is a reasonable assumption, but we were perambulating through the carpark at a doddle. i stopped slowly enough that the watch’s reaction really surprised me. earlier in our ride, we were pelting down a steep hillside, which would have been a more likely candidate for an alarm.

I had an amusing incident with my watch the other day. I took my watch off to shower (since I have a fabric band on it) and all of a sudden I heard a strange sound coming from the counter. I went over to check it and saw the watch was about to notify emergency about a fall. I realized that my cat had been up on the counter and he must have kicked it around. I was very glad I had heard it through the sound of the shower noise.

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As a cat owner, I can’t assume that anything left on a horizontal surface will remain there. But really good observation about how this false positive. Thanks for sharing.

Wouldn’t the watch lock when you took it off? Or is fall detection always on? If so, I guess if it was stolen and the thief trips or drops it, I’m in luck! Or if the watch gets knocked off its charger when I’m sleeping I’ll get an abrupt awakening when EMS arrives!

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I’m not really sure, but I do know I’d have been very embarrassed if I had some EMTs running into my shower!

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Would it be ok if I reprint your experience with the Apple Watch Fall Detection in a Mac User Group newsletter?
Linda C, editor

Assuming you are asking me, the answer is yes, but please remove anything past my first name (Frederico).

ok. Thank you.