Those who suffer with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease have an increased risk of falling. Problems with vision, balance and depth perception increase dementia-related falls. Considering the fact that they can lead to broken bones and even head injuries, it is extremely important to prevent dementia-related falls before they occur.
If your loved one is at risk of falling, “fall-proof” is a term you should become familiar with. Just as you once “child-proofed” your home to remove hazards for toddlers, now you are going to make sure that your home is safe from hazards that might cause falls.
Here are five ways that you can prevent dementia-related falls and fall-proof your loved one’s home:
1. Make sure exterior walkways are safe.
It’s important to address exterior walkways to ensure that your loved one can enter and exit the home safely. Pay attention to the following issues:
2. Maximize light in the bedrooms and hallways.
- Ensure adequate lighting and increase it as much as possible with high voltage bulbs at every door and walkway
- Limit shadows that may cause trip and falls
- Keep pathways and the driveway in good repair, free of cracked pavement and different levels that can cause falls
- Make sure the driveway and walkway are clear of ice and snow
- Paint the outside stairs with a mixture of paint and sand for good traction
- Paint the step edges a contrasting color to make it easy to see where to step. Do not use black. Dementia causes black to be read as a black hole
Trips and falls can occur easily in the middle of the night when seniors may not think to turn the
lights on before venturing to the bathroom or downstairs for a drink of water.
3. Use visual contrast and safety devices to prevent falls.
- Place night lights in every outlet in the bedroom and hallway
- Buy glow-in-the-dark light switches for every bedroom and hallway
- Install lights in dark closets. Bright, inexpensive lights with sticky strips on the back area available at hardware and big box stores
- Insist that your loved one opens the curtains during the day to take advantage of natural light
- If there are unused bedrooms on the same floor as your loved one’s bedroom, install low voltage light bulbs with automatic timers. The low light at night will help to illuminate the hallway.
Visual contrast can help to prevent falls and to make certain tasks easier throughout the household. For example:
4. Keep all interior traffic patterns clear.
- Use a non-slip bath mat that is a different color from the tub
- Install a contrasting color toilet seat; raised toilet seats are best
- Install handrails and grab bars in the bathroom that contrast with the color of the wall
- Apply brightly colored, non-slip tape on the edge of each interior stair
- Place furniture against a contrasting wall
- Use a bath chair or bath bench
Clutter is the enemy! Make sure that all surfaces are free of clutter.
5. Increase accessibility and reduce reaching.
- Remove all piles and clutter from all entryways, floors, and tables
- Remove scatter rugs
- Replace uneven flooring and replace or remove ripped carpets
- Remove all low pieces of furniture that may cause a trip hazard, such as low tables, plant and magazine stands
- Use a simple furniture arrangement that is easy to walk around
Reaching up to grab a plate or reaching across to turn off a light can cause imbalance and lead to falls. That’s why it’s important to make everything as easily accessible as possible.
- Keep important items like glasses, the TV remote and keys in consistent, visible, easy-to-reach places
- Make sure the bedside lamp can be easily reached when your loved one is in bed
- Place dishes and glasses that are used daily in easy to reach places
- Label cupboards with a list of the contents
- Keep walking aids like canes and walkers in easily accessible places where they won’t become trip and fall hazards
- Keep emergency contact numbers by the phone in large print
These tips can help you to prevent dementia-related falls
and keep your loved one safe. Review them frequently and conduct monthly inventories of the house to make sure that your improvements are still in place. Even if your loved one doesn’t have dementia, fall prevention should be a priority. For more ways to prevent falls, check out our most tried and true fall prevention