Falls and Dementia
Introduction[edit | edit source]
Dementia is a frequent disease in the elderly and may be a major risk of falling. Typically these falls are multiple and serious. All types of dementia (eg Alzheimer's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, dementia in Parkinson's disease, fronto-temporal dementia, vascular dementia) increase risk of falls, with the risk of falls in people with dementia (PwD) is almost twice that of cognitively intact older individuals . Likewise, compared to healthy older adults, balance and mobility are more affected in cognitively impaired older adults . Moreover, falling causes more serious consequences in PwD and increases the risk of hospitalisation, which might increase healthcare costs .
Falls Risk Factors: Dementia[edit | edit source]
In general age is a key risk factors for falls and the majority of PwD are older persons. Older people have the highest risk of death or serious injury arising from a fall and the risk increases with age. This risk level is in part due to physical, sensory, and cognitive changes associated with ageing, plus environments that are not adapted for older persons.
Additional risk factors for PwD additionally include affected visuospatial function, sensorial integration and motor planning, anxiety, and medication side effects, which can affect mobility and increase the risk of falling .
Mobility Risks: Dementia, which is characterised by cognitive and executive decline, prevents smooth walking and causes mobility problems . Previous imaging, observational, and interventional studies have revealed a close and critical relationship between gait and balance .
Walking, which is a high-level, complex and controlled body movement, takes place along the neural pathway formed by the cortical, subcortical, spinal and peripheral . Compared to cognitively healthy elderly individuals, PwD have a gait characterised by decreased gait velocity, cadence and stance time, and increased stride and swing time (the severity of this difference depending on the type and stage of dementia ).
- The cortico-cortical and cortico-subcortical connections defects in PwD cause problems in the highest sensorimotor functions leading to higher-level gait disorders .
- Perception and resolution of the relationship between the person and the environment with the integration of information coming from the sensorimotor system are very important for postural stability and the continuation of walking .
- Studies have shown that sensory input, visuospatial function, and motor planning, which are important in this integration, may be impaired in individuals with dementia .
Fall Prevention Strategies in People with Dementia[edit | edit source]
Fall risk can be reduced in PwD using different strategies. Studies have shown that modifying the external factors/environment that create the risk of falling can be effective and prevention is possible. Attention must be given to the patient (keeping in good health, limitation in sedative treatment) and on his environment (lighting, obstacles on the ground, stress levels).
- Adequate lighting, using obvious contrasting colours,
- Cleared/safe pathways
- Easy-to-reach in visible places items needed
- Modified noise levels (can be effective to eliminate the effects of the affected sensorial impulse caused by dementia) .
- Assistive technologies/devices, education, and encouraging the participation of PwD in fall prevention programs can be other effective strategies .
Inconclusive Results: In addition to these, although some studies report that interventions such as vitamin D, hip protectors, medications, brisk walking, and cognitive behavioural group may have positive effects in reducing the risk of falls in people with cognitive impairment, such applications are not recommended to prevent falls because the results are inconclusive .
Exercise: One of the most effective fall prevention strategies for people with dementia is exercise (see the video below) . Studies have shown that especially strengthening and balance training can reduce the fall rate by improving mobility . It was also stated that exercises such as functional, cognitive-motor, and tai-chi could be effective in reducing falls . However, there is not yet high-quality solid evidence showing the type and intensity of the most effective exercise in preventing falls in people with dementia .
Overview of systematic reviews reported that multicomponent exercise training, including cognitive and physical exercises, may be more effective than other types of exercise in reducing fall rate by improving walking, balance, and cognitive functions . Considering the cognitive impairment that significantly increases the risk of falling in individuals with dementia, combining different strategies/exercises may have more positive results in improving physical and cognitive outcomes.
Viewing[edit | edit source]
Watch these 2 videos on falls reduction strategies and exercises to reduce falls risk.
Resources[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Strubel D, Jacquot JM, Martin-Hunyadi C. Dementia and falls. InAnnales de readaptation et de medecine physique: revue scientifique de la Societe francaise de reeducation fonctionnelle de readaptation et de medecine physique 2001 Feb 1 (Vol. 44, No. 1, pp. 4-12). Available:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11587649/ (accessed 14.11.2022)
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