physicial therapy rehab

Every year, nearly 1/3 of all older adults will suffer from some type of fall. Older adults with dementia, however, are more than twice as likely to fall than those without cognitive impairment. Their falls may also be more severe, perhaps resulting in serious bone fractures, hospitalization, or life-threatening injuries. Persons with dementia that suffer from a fall at home are more likely to be admitted into some type of institutional care. In addition, the cost of treating and rehabilitating seniors that have fallen has sky-rocketed in recent years (Montero-Odasso, 2012).

walking down a hall

Researcher continue to study the most helpful methods for reducing risk of falls and preventing injury in those with dementia. Below are some tips that may be helpful in managing fall risk:

  • Implement a regular exercise program to maintain muscle and joint strength
  • Work with the person’s physician(s) to ensure that medication are not causing adverse side effects that could contribute to falls (e.g. dizziness, vertigo)
  • Maintain a regular toileting schedule for the person
  • Anticipate the person’s needs
  • Have a knowledge for the person’s likes, dislikes, routine, preferences, etc.
  • Ensure that clothing and shoes fit properly and are in good condition. Avoid slippers with no supportive backing, pants that are too long for the person, etc.
  • Clearly label key places in the home or residence, such as the bathroom or bedroom, even if the person has lived there for some time.
  • Ensure that the environment is clutter-free. Remove throw rugs that could slip beneath the person.
  • Create a visible pathway from the bedroom to the bathroom, particularly at night. Consider using a bedside commode.
  • If falling in bed is a concern, consider using lowering the mattress directly onto the floor. Do not install bed rails as this could increase the person’s agitation and restlessness. Many individuals with dementia may view bed rails as a sign that they are expected to be incontinent, or they perceive the rails as an obstacle to overcome, increasing the height of their fall. The person could become fatally injured if their head were to get caught between the rails.
  • Make sure the bathroom is not conducive for falls.  Remove clutter, use grab bars, and non-skid strip. A shower chair may be helpful.
  • Use color contrast where appropriate – for instance, a person may not see a white toilet in front of a white wall. Consider using a brightly colored toilet seat to draw the person’s attention.
  • Make sure there is ample lighting in well traversed areas.
  • Provide places for the person to stop and rest, if walking on a long hallway or path.
  • Ensure the person wears sensory aids, such as glasses or hearing aids, if needed.

 

References

Montero-Odasso, M. M. (2012). Gait and Cognition: A Complementary Approach to Understanding Brain Function and the Risk of Falling. Journal Of The American Geriatrics Society60(11), 2127-2136.

van Doorn, C. (2003). Dementia as a Risk Factor for Falls and Fall Injuries Among Nursing Home Residents. Journal Of The American Geriatrics Society51(9), 1213-1218.

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