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Are Falls a Warning Sign of Dementia in the Elderly?

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Memory loss and other cognitive impairment symptoms are traditionally considered to be initial indicators of dementia. However, changes in the brain have also been determined to cause balance and gait disturbances that lead to falls. As up to 25 percent of older adults experience falls each year, the discovery is a major concern.

Dementia Signs

Along with memory loss, seniors in the first phase of dementia commonly demonstrate lapses in judgment and changes in personality. Accomplishing tasks that require multiple steps becomes more difficult. These symptoms, combined with falling, may be suggestive of dementia. 

Certain age-related conditions can make it more challenging for seniors to age in place safely and comfortably, but Clearwater live-in care experts are available around the clock to help seniors manage their health. Whether your loved one is living with dementia or is recovering from a stroke, you can trust the professional live-in caregivers from Home Care Assistance to enhance his or her quality of life.

The Washington University Study

Researchers from Washington University followed 125 seniors for eight months in a study initiated to learn more about aging and memory. Some of the study participants were diagnosed with preclinical signs of Alzheimer’s. All the subjects underwent PET scans. Scientists also obtained samples of their cerebrospinal fluid. The volunteers were asked to maintain journals documenting each time they fell. After more than six months, PET scans revealed the older adults demonstrating brain changes had an increased risk of falling that was 2.7 times greater than those with no brain changes. The study’s findings revealed that 48 of the seniors had experienced at least one fall.

Physiological Changes

Due to the changes in the brain that cause dementia, regions that regulate physical balance and movement also undergo damage. As a result, older adults may exhibit shuffling or other gait changes. In part, the difference is caused by confusion and the loss of logical thinking skills, which inhibit seniors with dementia from lifting their legs and feet when walking over thresholds or other surfaces. Seniors may also attempt to move and ambulate as they once did during their younger years. However, because their joints and muscles are affected by the aging process, they’re no longer able to move as fluidly as before.

Falls Accompanied by Confusion

Due to findings linking falls with dementia, families may worry when their loved one falls. After falling, it’s not abnormal for seniors to experience confusion or disorientation. However, after a few moments, their cognitive ability often returns to normal. If the fall causes a head injury, recovery may require months of healing time. Keep these factors in mind before jumping to the conclusion that your loved one is exhibiting the first signs of dementia. 

If your loved one does sustain an injury, a professional caregiver can help him or her recover safely and comfortably at home. Although it may be challenging to find reliable, highly rated senior care, Clearwater, FL, families can turn to Home Care Assistance. Our respite and live-in caregivers are expertly trained to assist seniors with a wide array of important tasks, including cooking, bathing, light housekeeping, and exercise.

Factors that Increase Fall Risk

A variety of medical conditions increase the risk of falling in older adults. A senior might have a visual disturbance that interferes with depth perception or the ability to distinguish between lighting differences. Arthritis and osteoporosis disrupt normal range of motion due to pain, stiffness, and bone weakness, thus inhibiting the ability to maintain proper balance. Parkinson’s disease also affects musculoskeletal movement in its early stages. When you notice balance and gait changes in your loved one, consider having him or her assessed by a healthcare provider.

If your loved one is experiencing frequent falls, no matter what their cause, having a trained professional caregiver close by can provide you and your family with much-needed peace of mind. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of home care service. Clearwater families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. Reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (727) 330-7862 to learn more about our high-quality home care services.