Falls are very common in people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia associated with cognitive impairment (the ability to think, concentrate, formulate ideas, reason and remember). Falls are also common in people over the age of 75 years. Here are 10 ways caregivers can help their loved ones prevent a fall.
- Assess the home environment to identify physical risks. Getting a health professional with experience and skills can be very helpful. Common problems with easy solutions include; fastening loose mats and carpets, making safe electric cords, improving lighting in dark corridors and stairwells. Simple home modifications have been shown in research to make a significant reduction in falls for elderly people.
- Cheap home modifications help prevent falls. Fit hand rails in showers, around the bath and toilet. Stairs and steps should be made safe by improving lighting and by putting in handrails and ramps where appropriate.
- Medical Assessments are important to identify the causes of falls. They may be due to symptoms such as blackouts, pain, deteriorating balance or even ear infections. Some causes of falls can be treated and the incidence of falls reduced.
- Balance and walking can be improved by programing in physiotherapy led exercises to a loved ones daily routine.
- Review medication and discontinue drugs that impair balance. It is important to remember that old age and drug treatments for multiple illnesses can mean that drug interactions are more likely. This can also cause illness and balance difficulties.
- Assess visiond correct impairment: Visit optometrists on a regular basis. Cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration are common eye conditions in the elderly that need urgent attention. When they are appropriately treated they can make a big difference to a loved one’s quality of life too.
- Eyeglasses and Hearing Aids: Caregivers and healthcare professionals often forget to put on patient’s spectacles and hearing aids. People with Alzheimer’s forget they need them too. It is an obvious omission that can cause falls.
- Foot problems need to be addressed and a trip to a podiatrist can sort out the obvious such as corns and verucas and identify other significant problems such as foot deformity due to diseases or conditions.
- Footwear. Get rid of inappropriate footwear and buy slippers and shoes that provide support but that are easy to put on. Research shows that properly fitting footwear is one of the best things you can do to prevent falls.
- Individual treatment plans in care homes and at home are very important, especially when a number of different caregivers are involved in looking after someone who is prone to falls. The care plan should be written down to everyone can follow the simple instructions. Care plans need to be regularly re-assessed.
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