A new falls information zone
Last July I posted a Dementia and Falls Blog https://letstalkaboutdementia.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/dementia-and-falls and also led on the blog “ask a physiotherapist” during dementia awareness week https://letstalkaboutdementia.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/a-blog-a-day-blether-for-daw2015-3 Both blog posts sparked interest and discussion so I am delighted to offer some more updated advice and tips on falls and fall prevention if you are living with dementia.
Recently I have been working with Ann Murray @annahpfalls and NHS Inform to publish to a dementia and falls page on the NHS Inform Falls Information Zone. The information on this week’s blog is taken from that page and you can read more about it at http://www.nhsinform.co.uk/falls/about/dementia/. The NHS Inform Falls Information Zone will also give lots of additional information about falls including, the causes of falls, keeping well and how to deal with a fall.
Dementia and Falls
Falls aren’t an inevitable part of living with dementia, however, some symptoms can make people with dementia more at risk of falls. People with dementia can also have the same health conditions that increase the risk of falls as people who don’t have dementia.
There are different personal risk factors that cause people to fall, however, people living with dementia are at greater risk because they:
- are more likely to experience problems with mobility, balance and muscle weakness
- can have difficulties with their memory and finding their way around
- can have difficulties processing what they see and reacting to situations
- may take medicines that make them drowsy, dizzy or lower their blood pressure
- are at greater risk of feeling depressed
- may find it difficult to communicate their worries, needs or feelings.
Each person will experience dementia in their own way, and may experience all or none of these risk factors.
5 helpful hints & tips
1. Your mobility
If you have problems with mobility, balance and muscle strength, it’s important to remain physically active and get the right support to enable you to do this if you’re having difficulties. Physical activity may also help in avoiding, delaying or reducing some of the mobility problems associated with dementia.
Alzheimer Scotland has produced an Activities Guide for Carers of People with Dementia, with suggestions for keeping active. It can be found here
NHSinform have advice about how to keep active and exercise which can be found at the link http://www.nhsinform.co.uk/falls/keepingwell/keepactive/
2. Your medication
Antipsychotic, benzodiazepine and anti-depressant medications are sometimes used to treat the symptoms of dementia. These medications can put you at risk of falling as they’re known to cause:
- a drop in blood pressure when you stand up (postural hypotension).
If you think you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, speak to your GP as soon as possible.
NHSinform provide advice on how to manage your medication, which can be found at the link here
3. Your vision
Dementia can affect the way we perceive and process information from our eyes. This can lead to sight loss, however, eye conditions that cause sight loss, and normal ageing of the eye, can also occur alongside dementia and could be the cause of this. Loss of sight makes it more difficult to spot hazards and move around safely which puts you at risk of falls.
The RNIB have produced a Dementia and Sight Loss Leaflet with a checklist for identifying sight loss, which can be found at the link here
If dementia has affected your sight, the University of Stirling has produced guidance for designing homes and living spaces for people with dementia and sight loss, which can be found here
NHSinform have guidance on how to look after your vision and hearing which can be found at the link here
4. Your environment
Environments that are dementia-friendly – meaning they’re easy to navigate and free from hazards – can also help prevent falls. To make an environment safe:
- Invest in bright bulbs and regular lighting
- Add signage to doors and walkways to help you find your way around
- Use contrasting colours to make things more visible. Chairs, beds or toilet seats that are a different colour to the floor are easier to see.
The University of Stirling, in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing and Joint Improvement Team, have produced an Improving the Design of Housing to Assist People with Dementia Guide, giving practical advice for creating a dementia-friendly living space. The resource can be found at the link below;
NHSinform have some advice on how to make your house safe which can be found at the link here
5. Your thoughts and feelings
If you are living with dementia you are at higher risk of depression, which can make you less active, and affect how well you eat, drink and sleep, leading to an increased risk of falls. If you feel your mood is low, you should speak to your GP or other health or care professional.
Anything that makes you stressed, distressed or restless can also increase your risk of falls. Some common triggers include:
- being in pain
- being hungry or thirsty
- needing to use the bathroom
- being frightened, bored or lonely.
It’s important for those who support you to try to understand what triggers these feelings.
Alzheimer Scotland has produced a Behaviour that Challenges – Understanding and Coping information sheet, to help you identify these triggers. The resource can be found here
Alzheimer Scotland have produced a Healthy Living with Dementia information sheet, offering advice on keeping active, eating well and staying socially and mentally active if you have dementia, which can be found at the link below.
As mentioned in my previous blog, falls prevention is often a team effort. For more information please contact your health or social care professional for personalised advice. Remember – falls should not be seen as an inevitable part of getting older or having dementia.
Question: Do you think falls are considered an inevitable part of getting older or having dementia?
Up and About in Care Homes Deputy Project Lead
I am a physiotherapist with over 23 years experience working in a variety of care settings. I am currently Lanarkshire Care Home Liaison Physiotherapist. I am passionate about falls prevention and dementia and have recently graduated with a MSC in Dementia Studies
I am currently the programme manager for the National Falls Programme, which is sponsored by the Chief Health Professions Officer at the Scottish Government. Over the last five years I’ve been working with a broad range of partners to develop and improve the information, advice, support and care available to prevent and manage falls in the community setting.