Falling is a common cause of injury for all seniors. However, studies suggest that seniors living with dementia are at additional risk of falls and fall-related injuries. A study of fall rates for nursing home residents found that the fall rate for seniors with dementia was 4.05 per year, while for seniors without dementia it was 2.33 falls per year. If you're caring for a loved one with dementia who is living at home, take a look at some tips that will help reduce their risk of falling and potentially suffering a serious injury.
Make Visibility A Priority
Eyesight can diminish with age, and dementia takes its own toll on the visual system, sometimes causing patients to misperceive what they are seeing. Shadows can easily create optical illusions for a person with dementia, which can make them more likely to fall because they can't see clearly. Improving the lighting in the home to reduce shadows and darkness in the areas most used by the person with dementia can go a long way toward reducing the risk of falls.
It can also help to use contrasting colors wherever there are steps or stairs, if possible. If the floor and the staircase are covered in the same carpeting, your loved one may not be able to tell the difference between them. Using different colors to mark the bottom and top of the staircase, or to distinguish a single step up or down, can help prevent a fall.
Stock the Bedside Table
Nighttime wandering can be a particular problem for patients with dementia. It's a dangerous time for your loved one to walk around since the lights are mostly off and the household is likely to be asleep. However, it's not unusual for patients with dementia to wake up at night.
One way to help ensure that your loved one stays in bed at night is to make sure that they have the things they might need at their bedside. This can prevent them from going off looking for some item. A glass of water, cough drops, a box of tissues, and a portable phone can all help keep your loved one from wandering too far. Make sure that the bedside table also has a light that your loved one can turn on without difficulty and eyeglasses if needed. If your loved one does get up, you want them to be able to see as well as possible.
Provide Safe Footwear
The right shoes can go a long way toward preventing falls, and the wrong shoes can help cause them. Look for shoes that are slip and skid resistant, and avoid shoes that are too loose or that slip on without securing tightly.
It can be a struggle to find shoes that fit the bill because patients with dementia are often frustrated by laces and prefer slip-on shoes that are less difficult to put on. Shoes with Velcro straps can be a good compromise – they stay securely on the feet, but aren't difficult to fasten.
The most important thing that you can do is make sure that someone is available to help keep your loved one safe. Don't expect to be able to do it all by yourself – hiring an in-home caregiver can be a big help.