Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Foundation of America

5 Tips to Prevent Falls

As we all age, we are at a greater risk of falling and getting hurt. Falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide, with adults over 65 years of age suffering the greatest number of fatal falls, according to the World Health Organization.

Falling can stem from a variety of circumstances involving medical conditions, medication, balance difficulties, visual cognitive impairment, and environmental factors. Not only can falls cause serious injuries, they can negatively impact one’s sense of self. Preventing falls can be particularly challenging for someone living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related illnesses.

Here are five tips for caregivers to help reduce the risk of falls:

Be aware of the surroundings outside and inside the home.

Make sure all pathways of the house are clear of clutter and other obstacles. Indoors, secure or remove all area rugs, ensure that all electrical cords are neatly kept and tucked away behind furniture and that everyday items such as food and personal care products are stored away neatly within reach. Outdoors, it is crucial to be aware of the daily weather conditions. Remove/limit the buildup of natural obstacles like snow in the winter or leaves in the fall.

Make sure that the home is easily accessible.

Install handrails in areas such as stairways, bathrooms, and bedrooms, and ensure that they are securely attached. Mark all rooms with signs to avoid wandering and confusion. Utilize nightlights throughout the house, so it is easier to see the surroundings in the dark. Minimize the glares that come from windows and mirrors to avoid direct light to the eyes.

Be mindful of the impact that medications can have.

Some medications can cause dizziness, which increases the risk of falls. Always ask the individual’s doctor or pharmacist about prescription and non-prescription medication side effects. Take the time to educate yourself about what to expect.

Be aware of the individual and their personal needs.

Keep the individual comfortable. For example, evaluate the feet for pain and always check to see that they are wearing comfortable and well-fit shoes with non-skid soles. Ensure the individual wears eyeglasses and hearing devices, if needed, as sensory issues can contribute to falls. Consult with a physical therapist about assistive devices such as walkers and canes.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

A healthy diet can help build bone strength. Exercises, such as chair rises and tai chi, may help strengthen leg muscles and improve balance, minimizing falls. Don’t forget to consult with
a physician about appropriate diet and exercise selections.

While these tips can be helpful, an individual with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia-related illnesses can still be at risk of having a fall. If an individual falls and appears to be injured, contact emergency services immediately.

Originally published in Alzheimer’s TODAY, Volume 14, Number 3.