Tips to Reduce Risk of Falls

Alzheimer’s and Falling: Tips to Reduce Risks

By Ava M. Stinnett

As our loved ones age, the risk of falling increases. This may be due to changes in vision or perception, difficulty with balance, or cognitive impairment. Side effects from certain medications and medical conditions can cause dizziness or lightheadedness when standing. People with Alzheimer’s are generally at greater risk of falling. In fact, some studies show that problems with balance, walking, and falling may be an early sign of dementia. Falls are dangerous in that there is not only the risk of serious injury but there can also be the fear of falling again and a loss of confidence, leading to decreased activity.

A study from the medical journal Age and Ageing found that people with Alzheimer’s are three times more likely to suffer from hip fractures than those without the disease. If surgery and hospitalization are required, the resulting depression, disorientation, and disability may increase the chances that the person with Alzheimer’s can no longer be cared for at home.

Here are some suggestions to help prevent falls and allow your loved one to remain mobile and independent for as long as possible.

  • Daily exercise, such as walking in the neighborhood, at a local store, or on a treadmill to improve strength and balance
  • Regular eye exams to determine if cataracts, double vision, poorly fitting eyeglasses (or an old prescription), or changes to the visual field have occurred
  • Increasing light to achieve uniformity across spaces to minimize sudden changes in light levels, shadows or dark areas, and glare; using daylight where possible to help with depression or sleep disorders and improve general health
  • Maintaining good foot hygiene—examining the feet for cuts or bruises or long toenails—and wearing shoes that provide good support and have non-slip soles
  • Removing clutter, such as books, clothes, slippers, or other objects that someone could trip over, and making sure that rugs, loose carpets, or furniture aren’t posing a potential hazard
  • Installing grab bars or handrails where needed

Keep in mind that as Alzheimer’s progresses, it may be accompanied by poor judgment or decision-making skills. Your loved one may attempt to walk alone down the steps, walk outside when the sidewalks are slick from rain or snow, or try to get up from a chair or out of bed without help. Despite gentle and, perhaps, daily reminders, memory loss causes some people with dementia to continue trying to do things independently when it’s no longer safe to do so. Patience, understanding, and the implementation of safety measures are the best solutions for dealing with a challenging disease like Alzheimer’s.