10 Tips for Preventing Dementia related Falls

Falls prevention to help those living with dementia Age UK Falls Awareness Week was held on 17- 21 June 2013. For more information on this, please click on: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/services-and-practice/health-and-wellbeing/falls-awareness-week-18-22-june-2012/ Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for senior citizens, with 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 falling every year I read. Older adults with dementia are up to 60% more likely to fall, putting them at a greater risk of sustaining injuries, which can lead to an unfortunate hospital stay and long period of immobility. With this comes the potential risk of other implications. Falls are a major, yet preventable, threat to the independence and health of our elderly, and especially those who have dementia. Our elderly are more likely to be put in hospital from having a fall than any other cause. So knowing the tell-tale signs and some of the prevention strategies you can put in place to help avoid these unnecessary hospital stays is paramount. Falls amongst our elderly can be caused by various risk factors, such as physical weakness, gait and balance issues, medication side effects and indeed unsafe home environments. People with dementia are at an especially higher risk of falling due to their memory loss, poor judgment and visual impairment, which are often associated with the condition. Falls are a leading cause of injury-related deaths for our elderly and those who live with dementia are especially at risk. Impaired judgment, a decline in sensory perception and an inability to tell others about their needs can all add to an increased risk of them falling with sometimes dire consequences. 10 Tips for Preventing Dementia-Related Falls 1. Provide visual/sensory cues. People with dementia can have difficulty separating similar colours (such as the same carpet on the stairs as on the floor) and setting objects and their background apart. It is helpful to define the top and bottom of a staircase through the use of contrasting colours.This is well documented. 2. Have suitable lighting in place. Dementia can cause damage to the visual system and cause illusions and incorrect perceptions. Therefore, always ensure that the home has adequate lighting in every room in order to reduce visual difficulties. As those with dementia might misinterpret what they see, so reducing dark areas and shadows is vital to try and stop this. 3. Clear walking paths and corridors inside the house. Those who live with dementia cannot always recognise the dangers and hazards of a loose rug, an unsteady footstool or electrical cords that for some reason may be stretched across the floor. Removing these tripping hazards and ensuring that pathways are always kept clear can help prevent any falls. 4. Get rid of any clutter outside the house. Areas outside of the house should always be kept clear of objects such as leaves, or loose chippings during the Winter etc. And beware of any dips in the garden paths or uneven ground anywhere that could cause a loss of balance and fall. 5. Place helpful information and reminders in an easy to find place. Have a single place for any notes or reminders that are easily accessible and read by a person who has dementia. Such places can be a cork board or a whiteboard that is easy to write reminders on. Using this single location makes the process easier, and also provides an organised process for the person who has dementia preventing the need for them to have to walk around the house looking for information. 6. Always keep important things by the bed. One major issue and cause for people living with dementia is confusion at night. As restless nights can leave someone who has dementia, or someone simply elderly tired and unsteady on their feet. In order to help prevent wandering at night, always keep important things that maybe needed on a bedside table, including a bottle of water, a torch, glasses, tissues and a telephone should they be needed for any reason. 7. Think the unexpected. Someone who lives with dementia may start to wander as their condition worsens. This can lead them into unsafe areas. Wandering is said to sometimes signal what is seen as an unmet need that someone who has dementia is trying to satisfy. Instead of trying to stop them from wandering around and getting lost, try redirecting them to avoid raising the person’s anxiety and frustrations. 8. Lower noise levels. Someone who lives with dementia may also have an increased sensitivity to noise, so try and decrease the level of white noise and loud sounds around them. If the noise level should become too much, it can cause anxiety and nervousness – which can make someone with dementia unsteady on their feet. 9. Always keep help at hand. For anyone elderly who is at risk of falling, being able to quickly call for help is essential. Therefore, consider all forms of Remote or Telecare technology such as a fall alert bracelet which can be worn and used in case of an emergency. 10. Safe footwear. What someone wears on their feet can sometimes be a major fall risk. If their shoe can easily slip off, it will cause them to trip and fall. However, a person who is living with dementia may struggle with some clothing that involves buttons or laces being done up. Shoes with Velcro fastenings are a good solution, and make footwear easy to take on and off, but also the Velcro fasteners safely secure the shoes to their feet.

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