Understanding Fall Risks

Falls are a common and serious problem affecting many older adults. Individuals suffering with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia however, are twice as likely to experience annual falls and fractures. This varies from a range of factors including medication, night waking, shuffling, weakening musculature and balance. The first step in protecting your loved one from a serious injury associated with a fall is understanding the risk factors.

 

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The following are common causes of falls:

Health Conditions

While everyone is at risk for falls, older adults are at the greatest risk due to chronic health conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, low blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and other cognitive impairments. While some individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s are in excellent physical condition, many others seem to develop difficulties before cognitive impairment even begins. As Alzheimer’s progresses, it can cause lack of coordination, muscle weakness and diminished joint flexibility.

Reaction Time

As we get older, the nerves that carry information to and from the brain deteriorate. This slows reaction time and the ability to navigate around obstacles. This can be hazardous as seniors do not react as quickly in dangerous situations.

Medication

Many medicines also have side effects, causing dizziness, drowsiness and impaired vision.

Environmental Hazards

Many times, falls can happen because of environmental factors and hazards found throughout the home. These include everything from wet or slippery floors, poor lighting, to tripping hazards such as loose rugs, uneven floors, and trailing wires.

Visual-Spatial Problems

Because Alzheimer’s disease can affect the visual-spatial abilities, an individual can misinterpret and misjudge steps, uneven terrain, shiny areas on the floor or changes in floor color.

What you can do:

  1. Identify the risk factors for your loved one. Many people with Alzheimer’s and dementia suffer from poor eyesight, shuffling gait, muscle weakness and generalized frailty.
  2. Minimize or avoid medications that have been linked to falls. People with dementia are also more likely to fall when taking sedatives, tranquilizers, and antipsychotics.
  3. Exercise is important in preventing people from falling, especially if it includes balance and strength exercises. Ask the doctor about leg strength, gait, and balance evaluations. These tests help can determine physical risk factors.
  4. Consider a physical therapist or occupational therapist. These experts can work with your loved one to develop exercises strengthen joints.
  5. Make sure your loved one has eye tests regularly. Low vision is a huge risk factor for falls, and many vision problems come on gradually but steadily.  NursePartners’ use of theGEMTM methodology will also alert us towards changes in vision.
  6. Finally, get a home-safety assessment. Carepartners routinely perform these and can target danger spots and suggest easy improvements. This assessment can focus specifically on the needs of your loved one.

If you or a loved one is thinking about home care assistance, our team would love to help. Contact us today.

 

Sources:
Heerema, Esther. “Common Causes of Falls in People with Dementia.” Verywell.com. N.p., 31 Dec. 2015. Web. 30 May 2016.
 Perkins, Chris. “Dementia and Falling.” Continuing Medical Education 35.1 (2008): n. pag. Web. 31 May 2016.

2 thoughts on “Understanding Fall Risks

  1. My dad has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and so I’m trying to find him an in-home service that can give him the medical assistance he needs, particularly in the case of emergencies. It’s true that his reaction time has slowed a great deal and he’s become clumsier moving about the house, so he is definitely at risk of falling, so getting a home-risk safety assessment might be a good idea for him. Having a physician available to take care of him in-home in the case of a fall would be beneficial, as well, to ensure my dad’s safety and health.

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