Preventing Falls in Seniors with Alzheimer’s
This page has been reviewed by a medical professional.
Reviewed by Dr. Phil Mitchell, MD, MS
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia that affects the brain and a person’s cognitive abilities. Symptoms include memory loss, confusion, and difficulties with problem solving, communication, language, and thinking. One of the worst consequences of this unforgiving disease is the heightened risk of falling, a risk that already increases as we age. Fortunately, there are preventative measures that caregivers for seniors with Alzheimer’s can take to keep their elderly loved ones safe.
Living with Alzheimer’s: Risk Factors & Symptoms
Before addressing the general prevention methods for Alzheimer’s-related falls, let’s take a closer look at the risk factors and symptoms that make this particular disease dangerous for the elderly. According to a study from the medical journal Age and Ageing, seniors with Alzheimer’s are three times more likely to suffer accidental fractures than those without the disease. Why? Alzheimer’s, while experienced differently, has been commonly shown to impair a person’s:
- Ability to balance, as it causes muscle weakness
- Memory and sense of direction
- Reaction times and ability to process external stimuli
- Ability to communicate needs and feelings
The medications prescribed to those with Alzheimer’s can also cause drowsiness, dizziness, and low blood pressure. All of these conditions can increase the risk of accidental falls among elderly people with Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease can be especially injurious to seniors with limited mobility, poor vision, impaired hearing, and other physical disabilities that can cause disorientation and restrict movement. For seniors with both Alzheimer’s and mobility problems, it’s important to encourage physical activity to build muscle strength and spatial awareness. It’s also important to create a safe home environment, free of obstacles that could heighten the risk of falls.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related accidents in people over the age of 65, and according to medical professionals, contribute largely to serious injuries and/or accidental deaths. The National Center for Injury Protection and Control suggests a number of prevention methods to reduce the chance of falls in seniors with Alzheimer’s, including the following tactics:
Standing furniture, such as stools and tables, should be kept to a minimum in the living quarters of seniors with Alzheimer’s. While aesthetically pleasing, these furniture pieces are often unstable and dangerous for those with poor spatial awareness and balance. To avoid potential falls caused by misplaced objects, ensure walkways are clear and furniture is pushed against the wall.
Install Extra Lighting
Seniors with Alzheimer’s are prone to wandering—a symptom of memory loss imparted by the disease. This occurrence is especially common at night, when confusion is heightened. To create a safe environment for these dangerous wandering spells, invest in adequate lighting. This can be as simple as installing nightlights in hallways, bathrooms, and other popular walkways. Or, rig lamps with smart light bulbs that can be programmed to switch on and off automatically.
Keep Reminders & Everyday Items in One Location
Forgetfulness and confusion are both dangerous symptoms of memory loss and can also lead to falls in seniors with Alzheimer’s. Designating a common location in the home for notes, reminders, and everyday items can help redirect wandering caused by this confusion. Some popular places for a reminder homebase include on the bedside table or the dining room table. Be sure to pick a familiar location that is free of obstacles.
Supply Safe Footwear
This is one of the most beneficial measures caregivers can take to prevent falls in seniors with Alzheimer’s. As previously mentioned, wandering and confusion caused by the disease are linked to injury-related falls in those with Alzheimer’s. Supplying safe footwear is a proactive way to ensure people affected by the disease can safely explore their environment. Choose shoes without laces that provide good arch support and are equipped with non-slip soles.
Other checklist items that can help ensure your loved one’s home is safe include:
- Repairing uneven floorboards
- Removing throw rugs or applying a non-slip backing to loose carpets
- Coiling or taping cords and wires next to the wall
- Fixing loose handrails and installing new rails on both sides of the stairwell
- Moving kitchen appliances and dishware to lower shelves
- Placing nightlights in dark hallways or corners
- Installing grab bars in the bathroom, near the toilet, and in the bath/shower system
- Investing in non-slip flooring for the kitchen and bathroom
Choose On-Demand Medical Care
In addition to following the aforementioned recommendations, you should also consider increasing your loved one’s visits to a healthcare provider. Poor vision, physical disabilities, and other complex medical conditions that affect coordination and mobility can increase chances of falling, especially in seniors with Alzheimer’s. A traditional medical center, however, can be overstimulating for people with Alzheimer’s, as it removes them from their familiar environment and invites an array of stressors, including travel and packed waiting rooms. In the event of a fall or severe ailment, instead of preparing for a stressful visit to the emergency room (ER) with your loved one, turn to DispatchHealth.
DispatchHealth’s friendly medical teams are part of an innovative, on-demand service that takes medical care to the home. Simply request our service via phone, mobile app, or through our website, and one of our teams will arrive at your doorstep in a matter of hours. Composed of a physician assistant, or nurse practitioner, and a DispatchHealth medical technician (DHMT), our teams are prepared to perform a variety of tests and treatments, can prescribe medications, and even suture wounds. Best of all, we accept most forms of major insurance—offering you comprehensive medical care at nearly one-tenth the cost of a typical ER visit.
To learn more about the benefits of on-demand medical care for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, contact DispatchHealth today!
DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies.
Sources referenced in this article: