Fall risk factors for older adults with dementia are three times greater than those without cognitive impairments, reports Home Care Partners, a nonprofit home care agency in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the potential for regaining the previous level of functioning after a fall is particularly poor in older people with dementia. Those with dementia are less likely to bounce back and therefore are at greater risk for institutional placement after a fall.
Home Care Partners identifies the risk factors for falling into three main categories: Physical Problems, Mental or Social Problems, and Environmental Problems. Physical problems may include injuries from previous falls, recovering from joint replacement surgery, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, orthostatic hypotension (a drop in blood pressure upon standing up), visual impairment, hemiparesis as the result of a stroke (weakness on one side of the body), reduced mobility or unsteady gait, and urinary incontinence or urgency.
Mental or social problems may include living alone with little or no family support, impaired judgment or dementia, depression, fear of falling (especially if there is a history of previous falls), and not asking for assistance nor seeking medical attention. The confusion and disorientation associated with dementia can make it difficult for the client to accurately assess environmental hazards.
Environmental problems may include clothing such as: improper or ill-fitting footwear, shoes with poor traction, long robes or belts/sashes that drag on the ground; assistive devices such as canes, walkers, and wheel chairs that are poorly maintained or used improperly or not used at all; improper temperature inside the home such as excess cold which may cause dizziness and falling, or excess heat which could cause dehydration, again resulting in dizziness and falls. Falls due to environmental hazards may be related to scatter rugs without adequate non-slip backing, wet floors, poor lighting, inadequate stair rails, and clutter and pets underfoot.
However, the good news is that many of these falls can be prevented. Live Free Home Health Care provides caregiving services for older adults to maintain their independence at home. Clinical Director and Co-Owner, Jennifer Harvey RN BSN CDP, who recently obtained her certification as a Dementia Practioner from the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners, directly trains and supports LFHHC caregivers who work with “at risk” elders, particularly those with Alzheimer’s or other dementias to recognize fall risk factors and how to remove or reduce those risks. To learn more, please visit www.livefreehomehealthcare.com or call us at 603 217 0149.