Annually, about one-third of all American adults aged 65 or older experience a fall. Falls are a major cause of medical problems, especially among those who have dementia. In fact, twice the number of older adults with dementia experience falls, compared to people without dementia.
What's more, older adults with dementia or other cognitive problems who fall are five times more likely to be admitted to long-term care facilities, and are at higher risk for fractures, head injuries, and even death, compared to older adults without dementia who experience a fall.
Researchers have recently focused on the role that dementia and other cognitive problems may play in falling, in hopes of discovering ways to manage and prevent falls. They published their study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
The research team reviewed several studies examining the role of cognitive function--the ability to think and make decisions--on falls. They also studied ways to help prevent falls by using methods that help improve cognitive function.
The researchers discovered that poor performance on tests for attention and decision-making was linked to walking slowly, being unstable on your feet, and experiencing falls. They also learned that certain kinds of "brain training" may be helpful in improving mobility and preventing falls.
One important finding this study revealed is that people with mild cognitive impairment may be at risk for dementia in the future, and may also be at risk for falls. The researchers suggested that older adults at this early stage of developing thinking problems might be candidates for therapies that could help prevent falls.
Actions that could help preserve cognition and potentially help prevent falls include:
- Reviewing medications
- Providing strength, balance, and cognitive training
- Correcting vision and hearing problems
- Correcting Vitamin D deficiency
- Checking the home to remove any hazards to walking safely
This summary is from "Falls in Cognitively Impaired Older Adults: Implications For Risk Assessment And Prevention ". It appears online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study authors are Manuel Montero-Odasso, MD, PhD, AGSF; and Mark Speechley, PhD.
About the Health in Aging Foundation
This research summary was developed as a public education tool by the Health in Aging Foundation. The Foundation is a national non-profit established in 1999 by the American Geriatrics Society to bring the knowledge and expertise of geriatrics healthcare professionals to the public. We are committed to ensuring that people are empowered to advocate for high-quality care by providing them with trustworthy information and reliable resources. Last year, we reached nearly 1 million people with our resources through HealthinAging.org. We also help nurture current and future geriatrics leaders by supporting opportunities to attend educational events and increase exposure to principles of excellence on caring for older adults. For more information or to support the Foundation's work, visit http://www.
About the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
Included in more than 9,000 library collections around the world, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (JAGS) highlights emerging insights on principles of aging, approaches to older patients, geriatric syndromes, geriatric psychiatry, and geriatric diseases and disorders. First published in 1953, JAGS is now one of the oldest and most impactful publications on gerontology and geriatrics, according to ISI Journal Citation Reports®. Visit wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/JGS for more details.
About the American Geriatrics Society
Founded in 1942, the American Geriatrics Society (AGS) is a nationwide, not-for-profit society of geriatrics healthcare professionals that has--for 75 years--worked to improve the health, independence, and quality of life of older people. Its nearly 6,000 members include geriatricians, geriatric nurses, social workers, family practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and internists. The Society provides leadership to healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public by implementing and advocating for programs in patient care, research, professional and public education, and public policy. For more information, visit AmericanGeriatrics.org.