A third of people over the age of 65 fall every year and those with Dementia are even more likely to fall. Falls can cause shock, anxiety and loss of confidence, and physical damage such as fractures, bruising or head injury. This can cause the person to become isolated and limit their outings and activities. Often people need 24-hour care after falling, this is also common in rest homes and hospitals.
How can we help prevent falls?
Remove mats, electric cords, low stools or anything that may cause someone to trip over. Put handrails near steps, toilets, bathroom and ensure that flooring is even and non-slip where possible. It is also advisable to install a night light in case the person with dementia wanders during the night. You can access your local Occupational Therapist at the hospital to assess your home for risk.
Remember that most people with dementia do better in a familiar environment and making changes all at once can disorientate them. Try explaining in a simple way why you are taking things away and remove them from the property, as you may find that they are back in their old place next time you visit.
Ensure that the person with dementia has clean glasses and sees the optician regularly, hearing aids are tested and have fresh batteries when needed. Also do they have problems with their feet? ingrown toenails, corns or nails that need cutting.
Constipation and bladder infections can increase confusion which can affect balance. If you suspect the person with dementia is more confused and wobblier on their feet, it is worth getting them checked by the GP. Keeping medication up to date and ensuring that it is taken correctly, can often be a problem for carers to monitor. Often some drugs used to treat for delusions, epilepsy, anxiety and sleep medication can be associated with falling. Talk to your GP if you have any concerns regarding these.
Keep the person with dementia as active as possible. Join a walking group or gym or an exercise class – available through the green prescription, the GP can refer you to these groups. Alternatively, can check on the ACC website, www.acc.co.nz or call 0800THINKSAFE 0800 844 657.
Note that we cannot prevent all falls. If the person with dementia is at home or in care, they are still at risk of falling. Remember, do you want the person with dementia deprived of getting out and about? We need to take all care, but this is not going to prevent all falls.