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Seniors or patients with dementia experience falls up to two to three times more than individuals who are younger or who are cognitively intact. Falls put them at risk to more serious injuries such as fractures. Additionally, fear, declining function, decrease quality of life and even death may result from these falls. It is for this reason that fall prevention, especially in the home, is something to avoid if possible.
For people suffering from dementia, falls are particularly dangerous and raise serious alarms and concerns to their own families and caregivers.
A person with dementia may have difficulty carrying out even the simplest of everyday tasks. These include getting out of bed, going to the toilet, or ascending/descending stairs. Their deterioration and cognitive impairment cause a lot of adverse (and heartbreaking) consequences.
Their reduced attention or perception can cause them to trip more easily even over everyday objects such as ottomans or low tables. It also causes them to fear falling and as a result, they do not walk much — and this greatly increases the risk of falling. Other factors such as taking certain medications or wearing ill-fitting shoes can also contribute to the risk of falling.
No matter what stage of dementia the patient is having, fall prevention is critical.
The fear of falling doesn't have to dominate your or your patient's concerns. Here are some of the important tips to prevent falls; you will be surprised that these are quite simple tips:
1) Provide clear walking paths in your home
You should understand that a person living with dementia can have difficulty in recognizing the hazards of a loose rug or a loose extension cord. Even every day, once easily seen, may now become objects to trip over especially in poor lighting. Decluttering the environment and clearing the pathways are some of the keys to preventing falls.
2) Make bathing and trips to the toilet safer
There are many ways an elderly person can fall in a bathroom. There may be wet, slippery floors and surfaces. Bathtubs can be too high for them to climb over. Toilets can be too low for them to sit on. These may lead to the elderly have a resistance to bathing or relieving themselves. Going to the bathroom and the toilet has become a burden to seniors or people living with dementia.
We recommend you make some adjustments to prevent falls in the bathroom:
— installing non-slip floor and shower mats,
— installing grab/safety bars especially, near the bathtub or the toilet,
— installing a raised toilet seat,
— installing a shower chair,
— installing an adjustable or removable shower head, and
— placing the bathroom and toilet essentials within their reach.
If you are not able to assist your patient or a loved one who has reached senescence or is suffering dementia, you may need to enlist the help of a companion or a caregiver.
3) Make climbing up and going down the stairs safer
The patient who may attempt to use the stairs on their own when they're unable to do so is at high risk of serious falls. Usually, stairs only have one handrail, making climbing on them more difficult or entirely impossible for someone who has one side of their body weaker or in pain. They always need someone to assist them or use special equipment to enable them to use the stairs safely. Kerr Medical has a Designer Folding Cane which can be easily used on stairs.
4) Make getting in and out of bed safer
Falls commonly occur around the bed area. The bed may be too soft, too hard or too high for them to climb into or get out of. Kerr Medical has a number of bed rails which can be easily added to a bed to keep patients from falling out of bed, as well as helping them get out of the bed. People with a weak side due to stroke or with weakened legs and joints may now have great difficulty in getting in and out of bed safely and independently. They always need someone to assist them. We also have bed alarms to alert you when the patient or your loved one attempts to get up from the bed.
5) Supply safe shoes or any other type of footwear
Serious falls can also be a result of wearing ill-fitting footwear. Shoes that easily slip off can cause the wearer to trip. But a person living with dementia may be struggling with more intricate items of clothing such as buttons or shoelaces. Choose shoes that are not only safe for them to wear on, but also easy for them to use (such as shoes with Velcro fastenings).
6) Do not ignore the patient's unmet needs
As a patient progresses through the stages of dementia, they may start to wander, and this may lead them to unsafe areas that cause them to trip and fall. Wandering is an indication that the patient has unmet needs that he or she desires to satisfy. For example, they may be looking for a telephone because they need to call their wife or husband early in the morning. So instead of ignoring them or trying to stop them, try distracting them by doing other activities that may help in keeping their anxiety or frustration levels in check. We have many dementia care products as well as dementia wandering devices that will keep your patient or loved one safely indoors.
These are some of the many ways to put fall prevention skills in place. You can also discuss other options with your loved one's doctor or other health care professionals.