What are the common causes of falls with people living with dementia?
By researching and understanding the various causes of falls, this can increase awareness and hopefully prevent certain falls from happening. If a fall does occur, then an analysis of the situation can help determine what may have triggered the fall and potentially prevent another from happening.
It’s also important to assess and pick up your loved one using safe lifting equipment, such as the Mangar Camel to prevent the long-term damaging effects of long lie occurring. This proactive approach to fall prevention and post-fall management are important aspects of providing quality care for adults living with dementia.
Falls prevention begins with understanding the common causes of falls with people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia;
Physical weakness due to lack of exercise
Research has suggested that a decline in gait or balance can be an early indictor of a decline in cognition. As Alzheimer’s progresses into the middle stages and later stages, it causes a decline in muscle strength, walking and balance.
The benefits of physical exercise in dementia are many and can include increased daily functioning and improved cognition.
You can read more about the benefits of exercise and recommended activities here (links to falls and dementia article)
With the progression of Alzheimer’s, keeping your loved one from falling can become increasingly difficult because of the cognitive decline associated with the disease.
For example, you may need to explain to your loved one that they should not get up out of their chair because they are no longer strong or steady enough to do so. This can be a difficult change. As their memory is impaired, they may continually try to walk independently when it is not safe to do.
Alzheimer’s and dementia can affect visuospatial abilities and therefore a person can misinterpret what they see, for example, misjudging steps and uneven terrain.
It is recommended to have their vision checked regularly, as eyesight can decline as you get older. For example, poor vision could prevent them from seeing a trip hazard which could cause them to fall.
Another example of a potential trip hazard is when a home is full of too much clutter. Occasionally some people living with dementia develop the tendency to want to hoard things.
It is common for falls to take place in the evening before they go to bed. This is due to fatigue and becoming more tired and weary throughout the day.
Medication Side Effects
There are some medications that can increase the risk of falls due to their side effects. Antipsychotic medications, for example, can sometimes have a side effect of orthostatic hypotension, which is when a person can experience a sudden drop in blood pressure if they stand up too quickly.
Medications that facilitate sleep can cause drowsiness and medications that work to lower blood pressure can causes dizziness, both increasing the chance of a fall.