Seniors and dementia sufferers experience falls two or three times more often than younger people or people who have intact cognitive abilities. These falls may result in more serious and dangerous problems such as injuries, declining function, worsened quality of life and death. Fall prevention is something many caregivers of the elderly and those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia are concerned about in the home.
A person with dementia may not be aware of what they are doing or may not be aware of the things that surround them due to reduced attention or perception. They may trip over scattered toys or even low tables. It causes them to become afraid of falling and as a result, they do not walk much, which only increases the chances of falling. Taking certain medications or wearing ill-fitting footwear can also contribute to falling.
That is why fall prevention among the elderly and dementia patients is crucial. As a caregiver, you need to help the patient in overcoming the fear of falling. The following tips are simple and you can even do these at home:
1. As dementia patients are losing their sense of recognizing things around them, they may not notice something in their way, such as a low table, loosened rug or a long extension cord running across the floor. The risk of falling is even increased due to poor lighting. Decluttering your home, installing adequate lighting and providing clear walking paths for dementia patients will reduce the chances of accidental falls.
2. A bathroom or restroom is often considered a “danger zone” because of the wet, slippery floors and smooth surfaces such as tiles, toilets, and bathtubs – a sure way for a dementia patient to slip and tumble. Some bathtubs are too high for them to climb over, or toilets too low for them to sit on and stand up. These things may cause them to refuse to go to the bathroom or toilet altogether.
To reduce their burden of going to the bathroom or restroom, place or install on the bathroom or restroom the following: non-slip floors and shower mats, grab/safety bars beside the toilet or bathroom, a raised toilet seat, a shower chair, and an adjustable or removable shower head. You can also install a small shelf near the toilet or bathtub so that seniors can have easy access to bathroom essentials.
3. Using the stairs seems to be an insurmountable challenge for seniors and dementia patients. It is a hard struggle! To make climbing and going down the stairs easier, there should be adjustments to be made. Stairs usually have one handrail, making ascending and descending the stairs difficult for someone who has a weaker one side of the body or in pain. A caregiver or someone else physically able should be there to assist them. Using special equipment, such as Kerr Medical’s Designer Folding Cane will also help.
4. Getting in and out of bed is also a struggle among seniors and dementia patients, so adjustments have to be made too. If the bed is too soft as to make the patient sink low into it, make the bedding more firm. If the bed is too high, the height should be lowered enough to enable the patient in getting in and out of bed easier. As some patients suffer pains on their sides or have weakened limbs that make rising and setting into bed more difficult, they always need someone to assist them. Kerr Medical offers bed alarms to alert the caregiver when the patient attempts to get out of the bed but has difficulty in doing so.
5. Shoes and other footwear that are too ill-fitting can cause accidental trips and falls. Supply them with shoes with a comfortable fit. As dementia patients have trouble in tying shoes or locating buttons, choose shoes that are also easy for them to use (such as ones with Velcro fastenings).
6. Always be aware of your patient’s unmet needs. Dementia is a progressive condition – wandering usually starts in the later stages of dementia, although it can also happen in its earliest phases. Wandering may be an indication that the patient needs or wants something but has trouble communicating it clearly. For instance, they may be looking for a telephone because they need to call their spouse. Instead of ignoring them or brushing them off angrily, try to distract them by making up stories or encouraging them to do pleasant activities.
The suggestions above can help improve your fall prevention skills. After discussions with your family doctor or another health care professional, they may offer suggestions for products you can use. Kerr Medical has a large selection of fall prevention products.
There are some of the important fall prevention tips that you should implement in your home. You can also seek additional help and advice from your loved one’s doctor or health care professionals.