In 2014, older Americans experienced 29 million falls, causing seven million injuries and costing an estimated $31 billion in annual Medicare costs.
Falls are a leading cause of broken hips and other serious injuries in older adults, and those with Alzheimer’s are at an increased risk of falling. As Alzheimer’s progresses, the risk of falling continues to increase as vision, perception, and balance worsen. A study from the medical journal Age and Aging found that older adults with Alzheimer’s are three times more likely to suffer from hip fractures than those without the disease.
In addition to being painful, a broken hip requires hospitalization and surgery, likely leading to further disorientation and disability for the person with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, when someone who has been receiving in-home care breaks a hip, they may no longer be able to stay at home, signifying a loss of independence. The Age and Aging study ultimately showed that those with Alzheimer’s who suffer a broken hip are more likely to die than those without dementia.
Helpful Fall Prevention Techniques
It is a priority to prevent falls in people with Alzheimer’s to prevent not only the pain and suffering resulting from a fall, but also the loss of independence and economic ramifications resulting from a fall.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America suggests various fall prevention techniques that can be easily implemented:
- Clear pathways inside and outside of the home—Remove all hazards within the pathway to help prevent tripping hazards.
- Install and securely anchor handrails for all stairways—Handrails help with stability while walking and climbing stairs.
- Properly secure or completely remove all area rugs—Rugs are a major tripping hazard. Take proper measures to decrease this risk.
- Mark or label each room of the house if needed—Clear labels help prevent confusion, especially during the night.
- Keep personal care items within arms reach—Make sure items such as glasses and hearing aids are also in reach. Problems with vision and hearing increase the risk of falls.
- Ensure adequate lighting throughout the house—Install night-lights if needed and make sure lamp cords are secured in order to prevent tripping.
- Understand all medication side effects—Clarify with doctors and pharmacists about medication side effects and which medications may contribute to dizziness or an increased risk for falls.
- Make sure assistive devices are used to ambulate when necessary—These include canes and walkers and should be used consistently to avoid falls.
- Encourage the individual to wear well-fitted and comfortable shoes with non-skid soles—This decreases the risk of falls by eliminating loose-fitting slippers or slippery shoes that contribute to tripping and falling.
New Jersey is home to 21 county Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) that develop service systems for adults who are 60 and older. This agency is an excellent resource for general information and assistance on aging. The AAA provides various resources related to transportation, case management, respite care, visiting nurse and legal assistance, housing options, and more.
New York City has its own Alzheimer’s disease resource website with information about Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, and long-term care for seniors as their needs and conditions change with age. These resources are for those with the disease as well as their caregivers, and include:
- Home care—In-home services for those with mild dementia or early Alzheimer’s who may need help with medication management, bathing, and light housekeeping and chores.
- Adult day care—This service provides a much-needed respite for caregivers. Those with dementia and Alzheimer’s attend these centers during the day. Adult day care provides a safe and secure environment along with enrichment and socialization.
- Assisted living facilities with dementia care services—These communities provide a unique blend of assistance and safety while also encouraging as much independence as possible. Communities include those in the Roseland, Mountainside, and Morris Plains areas.
Fall prevention in those with Alzheimer’s is essential to avoid pain and suffering, financial hardship, and an overall loss of independence.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease without a cure. However, independence and safety can be preserved with adequate resources and living facilities. Use these local NYC and central New Jersey resources to help you or your loved one live their best life despite the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.