The winter weather accompanies the increased risk of falls. We can minimize fall risk by eliminating some environmental obstacles.
Some of these obstacles are:
- Dim lighting
- Slippery surfaces
- Clutter or pets
- Inadequate stair design
- Improper use of mobility devices
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the following statistics:
- One-fourth of Americans aged 65+ falls each year.
- Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall.
- Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
- Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
- Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths.
- In 2013, the total cost of fall injuries was $34 billion.
- The financial toll for older adult falls is expected to increase as the population ages and may reach $67.7 billion by 2020.
Dementia can affect areas of the brain that are responsible for movement and balance. Because of this, many individuals affected by Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia can gradually lose the ability to walk and perform everyday tasks. Knowing what to expect can make an easier transition for you and your loved one in the late stages of dementia.
Understanding Balance and Gait
A crucial and sometimes neglected part of dementia care is the observation of gait. Gait refers to the motion and stride of walking. One of the first signs of loss of mobility, is walking unsteadily and shuffling. Your loved one may seem slow or clumsy, causing more accidents and bumping into things. This “slowing” is typically associated with a syndrome called “parkinsonism.” Other signs of Parkinsonism include the shortening of steps, “stooped” posture, and the narrowing of the space between feet. When a person with Parkinsonism turns, they no longer pivot on their heels, but instead turn in a series of short steps. During the turns, their balance can become unstable; and are likely to fall backwards.
Apraxia is another condition associated with dementia and the ability to walk. An ataxic gait is characterized by imbalance, and abnormal, uncoordinated movements. Typically the individual can stand, but is very unsteady, taking small irregular steps. Very early in the course of apraxic walking in dementia, a cane or a walker can help. It is not uncommon to see a person go from a slow, cautious gait, to a normal walking pattern simply by taking up a cane.
How you can help:
- It is important to note that people with dementia can have problems with walking that are not associated with Dementia. Exhaustion and pain can limit how far a person can walk. Sometimes that pain can reflect an unattended problem in foot care or muscle fatigue.
- The person you care for may also require a mobility aid, such as a walking cane or a wheelchair in order to feel secure. Sometimes just being physically present can provide your loved one with the confidence and security to walk.
- Consider a physiotherapist: They can help with anything from exercises to strengthen muscles to walking aids.
Care for a person with dementia who is immobile enough can become difficult. Many other problems can develop, such as constipation, blood clots and pressure sores. If you or a loved one needs home care assistance or relief, our team can help: Contact us today.
Understanding Dementia: Balance and Gait Examination – DementiaGuide.com. DementiaGuide, 2001. Web. 23 June 2016.
Tips from our Carepartners
We work to assist older adults to live as independently and safely as possible. The following recommendations were at the suggestion of our carepartners while caring for their clients: