For people with dementia and Alzheimer's, sundowning syndrome is a common change…
As children, we fall, get up quickly, brush ourselves off and continue with our activities. When we become older adults, we don’t get up as easily, and can possibly even be injured from a fall. And dementia patients are more likely to fall than older adults who do not have cognitive impairment.
Here are six facts about falls and ways to help prevent them.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Each year more than one out of four (25%) people ages 65 and over fall in the United States.
- Falls can lead to serious injury, loss of independence and even death.
- Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.
- Each year 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
- One out of five falls causes a serious injury, such as broken bones or a head injury. Head injuries can be very serious, and you should be seen by a doctor immediately if you fall and hit your head.
- Women fall more often than men and are more likely to develop osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and make them easier to break.
Many people who fall, even if they’re not injured, develop a fear of falling which can lead to curtailment of their everyday activities. If someone is less active physically, they become weaker which increases the chance of falling. And a vicious cycle begins.
Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults ages 65 and over and the death rate from falls is increasing. The fastest growing fall death rate was among adults aged 85 and older.
What You Can Do to Prevent Falls
Although falls are common in older adults, addressing certain risk factors can help prevent them:
- Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to assess your fall risk. Also ask them to review all medications you’re taking (both prescription and over the counter) to see if any (or a combination of them) could make you feel dizzy, sleepy or affect your balance and how steady you are on your feet. If your doctor or physical therapist recommends an assistive device (walker, cane, or wheelchair), learn to use it properly and do so consistently.
- Do strength, balance and flexibility exercises to make your legs stronger and improve balance. Yoga and Tai Chi are good examples of exercises to engage in.
- Get your eyes checked annually by an eye doctor and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed.
- Make your home safer. Check your house and garden for fall risks, such as uneven pavement walkways or patios outdoors, and throw rugs or clutter inside. Get rid of anything you might trip over. Add grab bars inside and outside of your shower and next to the toilet. Put railings on both sides of the stairs. Is your home well-lit inside and outside? Use more or brighter light bulbs if needed.
How AFC Addresses Fall Risks
Overall, falls at the Center decreased by close to 60% from 2018 to 2019.
All patients at Alzheimer’s Family Center (AFC) receive initial assessments upon admission for physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT). A PT and/or OT program is designed for them to participate in each day they attend. These practices help maintain core strength, balance and prevent falls.
We do our best to provide a safe environment for ambulation. We observe all patients for changes in mobility, encourage participation in some form of exercise daily and provide the opportunity to rest or use a wheelchair if a patent shows signs of weakness or fatigue.
Starting in July 2019, AFC instituted a new policy providing additional PT assessments to any patient who had a fall either at home or at the Center. Six months after this policy was instituted, falls had decreased by 30%.
Whether you’re a patient or caregiver, please consider using the suggestions above to lower your and your loved ones’ risk of falling. For more information on AFC’s expert adult day health care services, call (714) 593-9630.
- Bergen G, Stevens MR, Burns ER. Falls and Fall Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:993–998. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6537a2
- Vellas BJ, Wayne SJ, Romero LJ, Baumgartner RN, Garry PJ. Fear of falling and restriction of mobility in elderly fallers. Age and Ageing 1997;26:189–193.