Preventing Falls in the senior population is a huge concern. And Dementia poses an added risk to falls. This article will address some of the causes of falls in dementia patients. We will also discuss ways to prevent a fall in someone with dementia. It may be a bit different than with someone who does not have dementia.
Why Senior Falls Are So Serious
When a 30-year-old person falls it is usually no big deal. They may have a bruise or bump. A bad fall could mean a broken bone. And healing at 30 years old is also no big deal. But if you are 70 + it is a different story altogether.
Bones may be more brittle at that age and easily broken or fractured. On top of that, the healing time is a lot longer in an older person. A bump to the head could also cause a brain bleed or swelling. And this could lead to further complications. Someone with dementia is three times more likely to fracture their hip when they fall, which leads to surgery and immobility. The rate of death following a hip fracture for those with Alzheimer’s is also increased. Additionally, in a person with dementia, falls like this can cause further confusion. Preventing falls in someone with dementia is important.
As a person ages, their skin may also become thin. Likewise, the skin will tear easily. Wounds left untreated could cause infections. The immune system in an older person is not as strong. As such these infections could land an elderly person in the hospital.
The Last Place You Want Someone with Dementia to Be
And let’s face it, an elderly person with dementia does not do well in a hospital environment. The noise, new people, lights and smells are confusing. And a dementia fall victim may already be frightened and confused. But falls often lead dementia patients to end up with a visit to the ER.
What Causes Falls in People with Dementia?
Many people think of dementia as a memory problem. But the truth is, it is so much more than that. Dementia patients have impairment in all of their senses. Their hearing, eyesight even sense of touch and smell may all be impaired. As such, these problems can cause someone with dementia to fall more easily. Let’s take a look at some of the challenges and how a few changes can help in preventing falls.
Glaucoma affects your peripheral vision. You know, what you see out of the sides of your eyes. Put your hands up against your face, next to your eyes. There is a lot that you don’t see, right? You may not see you cat scampering across the floor towards your feet. Or maybe other objects that are in your way. This lack of peripheral vision can also throw your balance off. And that could lead to a fall. This is true for both people with dementia and for those without this disease. But when someone has dementia, the fall can add further complications.
Dementia can affect visuospatial abilities. This means a person can misinterpret what he sees. And this could cause him to misjudge steps. Even changes in floor color can pose a big problem. Be sure to have his vision checked regularly, as eyesight can decline in the aging process.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration affects the center of your vision. It is like having a ball block the vision in the center. The condition starts out small but grows larger with time. Someone with dementia may not be able to verbalize what is happening. They may bump into walls and furniture. And again, this could also lead to balance issues.
Getting your eyes checked regularly is important for preventing falls.
Make Sure the Home Is Uncluttered
This is a key component in preventing falls in the senior population. There should also be plenty of space to easily walk around the furniture. Have railings installed where needed? Additionally, caregivers need to watch for things that are dropped on the floor. An elderly person with dementia may try to reach down to pick up the item causing them to lose balance. Simply picking up the item before they try to, can go a long way in preventing falls.
Which Drugs Should I be Concerned About? Do Some Drugs Cause More Falls?
Check the Medication
This is a big factor in preventing falls across our senior population. And people with dementia are often at high risk for medication-related falls. Any medication acting on the brain (psychotropics) or affecting cardiovascular function can increase fall risk. And these medications are frequently given to people with Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementias.
Antipsychotics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and narcotic pain medications typically increase the risk of falls. This is due to their effects on cognitive function. The drugs often sedate, slow reaction times, and impair balance. So if preventing falls is a concern then you really need to evaluate all medication.
Benzodiazepines (BZDs) are not recommended. However, they are still prescribed. They cause cognitive impairment, unsteady gait, psychomotor impairment, accidents, delirium, and dependence.
Antidepressants are also known to cause a risk of falls in the elderly. Again, these are routinely prescribed to seniors. Ask your pharmacist. to do a brown bag consultation
Brown Bag Consultations
Pharmacist Amanda Fraught( Listen here) says that most pharmacists will offer a brown bag consultation at no charge. You simply bring all of your medication in a brown bag to your pharmacist. And they will look at all of your medications. Furthermore, they will alert you of any problems you may need to be aware of. This is one of the best ways of preventing falls due to medication.
Preventing Falls by Paying Attention to Non-Verbal Clues
Often someone with dementia may not be able to express their needs verbally. As a caregiver, it is your job to pay attention to those non-verbal clues. Someone who is no longer able to walk may forget. As such they may try to get up if they are hungry, thirsty or need to use the restroom. This is why small Memory Care Homes like Sycamore Creek Ranch are able to offer much better care. When there are enough caregivers available you are able to offer person-centered care. As such, individual needs are met often avoiding and preventing falls.
If you are considering a move to memory care for someone you love we invite you to come for a tour. Learn more about Sycamore Creek Ranch Memory Care here.