Falls and Dementia

Falls are a common issue facing older people and the risk increases with age. This may be because of a range of factors: medical conditions (such as stroke), medication, balance difficulties, Visual Impairment, cognitive impairment and environmental factors. Falls can have detrimental effects on people, including injuries, loss of confidence and reduced activity.

For some people with dementia, the condition can also increase the likelihood of falling. They may be less likely to recover as successfully as someone who does not have dementia. People who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Dementia or Dementia with Lewy Bodies are at a higher risk of falling.

Practical Tips for Reducing the Risk of Falling at Home

There are a number of things that can be done at home to reduce the risk of falling:

  • Home safety – check the home for potential hazards such as rugs, loose carpets, furniture or objects lying on the floor
  • An Occupational Therapist may be able to help with identifying hazards and suggesting appropriate modifications. You can self-refer by contacting Customer Services on 0300 123 4510
  • Exercise – Regular Exercise can improve strength and balance and help to maintain good general Health. A GP can make a referral to a physiotherapist or you can self- refer 0141 304 7424
  • Healthy feet – foot problems, including foot pain and long toenails, can contribute to an increased risk of falls. Contact your GP or new patient self-referral 0141 636 842 Personal Footwear Education for care providers
  • Medicines – medication can have side effects, including dizziness, which could increase the risk of a fall. Changes to medication or dosage, as well as taking multiple medicines, can increase a person’s risk of falling. Speak to your GP or Community Pharmacist about a medicine review if the person with dementia is taking more than four medicines
  • Eyesight – Regular eye tests and wearing the correct glasses may help to prevent falls
  • Keep objects in easy reach – if something is going to be used regularly, keep it in a cupboard or drawer that is easy to access
  • Try not to rush – Do things at an appropriate pace; many people fall when they are rushing
  • Try to discourage DIY, changing light bulbs or any activity which requires the use of ladders. Help may be available from Care and Repair
  • Improve lighting

Dementia and Vision

Key Points

  • Improved lighting can reduce falls
  • Increase light levels
  • Minimise glare, reflection and shadows
  • Remove visual clutter
  • Try to avoid too many patterns
  • Use colour contrasts to make things clearer, eg a light door with a dark frame
  • Leave a light on in the toilet or bathroom during the night.
  • A night light in the bedroom may help if someone gets up in the night

As people get older they need more light to see clearly. This is because of age-related changes to the eyes. These changes include:

  • Pupils becoming smaller
  • Increased sensitivity to glare (especially if the person has had or currently has cataracts)
  • Reduced amount of light reaching the retina
  • Eyes adapting more slowly to changes in light levels
  • Dementia can cause Damage to the Visual System (the eyes and the parts of the nervous system that process visual information), and this can lead to difficulties. The type of difficulty will depend on the type of dementia. Problems may include:
  • Decreased sensitivity to differences in contrast (including colour contrast such as black and white, and contrast between objects and background)
  • Reduced ability to detect movement
  • Reduced ability to detect different colours (for example, a person may have problems telling the difference between blue and purple)
  • Changes to the visual field (how much someone can see around the edge of their vision while looking straight ahead)
  • Double vision

For more information see RNIB Dementia and Sight Loss.