Falls May Be Linked to Dementia

Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 2.8 million older people are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries. It’s more than mere inconvenience; one in five falls causes serious harm, such as a head injury or broken bone.

But there’s one more thing that must be considered: Falls are more common among those with early signs of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. Recent studies have shown that changes in gait and balance can show up before cognitive impairment.

In addition, as dementia progresses, other factors can play a part. Side effects from medication, fatigue, poor judgment and confusion are all on that list. Different types of dementia, however, carry different risks of increased falls.

Caregivers can help decrease the risk of falls—and, therefore, serious injury—in a number of ways. Begin by speaking with the doctor about the loved one’s particular risks, as well as the use of any medications that have been linked to increased falls. In addition, Caring.com suggests:

  • Consider asking for a referral to a physical therapist or occupational therapist.
  • Ensure annual eye exams.
  • Get a home safety assessment.
  • Consider exercise classes to build strength and balance.
  • Maintain good lighting.
  • Remove tripping hazards.
  • Install grab bars in tubs and showers, as well as near toilets.
  • Make sure slippers and shoes are stable and safe.

As the Alzheimer’s Association puts it, the brain in a person with dementia is having trouble telling the body what to do and how to move. The brain is having trouble, too, understanding the environment. Add that to the normal changes of an aging body, and it’s easy to see why dementia and falls can go hand in hand.

Staying aware and doing whatever possible to manage falls today, however, can help prevent injuries that could greatly reduce quality of life tomorrow.

 

 


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