We know approximately 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 fall, but did you know that cognitive impairment such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease doubles the risk even further? Around 60-90% of people over 65 with cognitive impairment will fall. This group also have 3 times the risk of a fall resulting in a fracture and are 5 times more likely to end up in a hospital or nursing home. So why does this happen? The normal process of ageing causes the loss of some neurons and synapses and the brain shrinks slightly, but this is far more pronounced in Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia and Alzheimer’s causes both behavioural/psychological and physical symptoms which can place people at higher risk of falling. Examples of behavioral/psychological changes: – Sleep and night time behavior can change, resulting in increased fatigue during the day – Hoarding results in increased clutter to trip on -Wandering results in the person being in unfamiliar/unsafe locations – Impulsive behavior may result in a person performing tasks that are unsafe – Anxiety which can lead to rushing/ frantic movements Gait/ Balance changes that occur: – Slower walking speed – Reduced step length – Increased postural flexion – Shorter step length – Increased postural sway – Increased unsteadiness Balance and postural control is significantly affected because the brain can no longer get the messages to the muscles and joints to correct/change position fast enough due to the disease process. This

Ladder safety

During 2014 in Australia, 1668 people aged 65 years and over were hospitalized because they fell from a ladder, over 80% of those who fell were male. Ladder related injuries among men aged 65 years and older is steadily increasing in Australia. The rise in these ladder related falls is linked to the ageing baby boomer population and the popularity of DIY building reality television shows such as The Block. Those aged over 65 tend to fall from ladders at lower heights and mostly in the home environment. Studies show this population group sustain more severe injuries with higher hospital admission rates. The injury pattern in older patients shows a higher incidence of traumatic brain injuries and injuries to the trunk. A recent article by the Alfred Hospital, has shown only 43% of people who had extremely serious injuries, were able to care for themselves at home one year after the accident. So how do we prevent these ladder related falls from happening?? Make sure your ladder is safe and right for the job

  • Use a Standards-approved ladder (Australian Standard AS/NZS 1892).
  • Read the manufacturer’s advice and follow safety warnings.
  • Check that your ladder is in good working order (for example, ensure it is free of rust, has non-slip safety feet, and that safety locks and braces are in place).
  • Make sure the ladder is rated for the weight you need it to carry – your weight, the weight of tools and supplies, and any objects placed on the ladder).

Vision and falls

Fall rates increase with increasing age and account for 87% of injury hospitalizations in 85+ year olds. One major cause of falls is visual impairment. People with visual impairments are more than twice as likely to fall as people without visual impairments. They also have three times the risk of depression and the risk of hip fractures increases eight fold. There are both intrinsic and extrinsic factors that contribute to vision related falls: Intrinsic Factors Contributing to Vision Related Falls: Reduced depth perception— Older people who have decreased vision in one eye have more difficulty judging distances. This can make it difficult judging the distance from hazardous obstacles. Reduced contrast sensitivity— Older adults who have visual impairments may have difficulty seeing changes in surfaces as they cannot make out a solid edge of contrast. Reduced contrast sensitivity can make it difficult to detect obstacles or clutter and make make curbs nearly invisible. Reduced visual field— Whereas some eye diseases such as Glaucoma may result in poorer peripheral vision, other eye diseases like Diabetic Retinopathy or Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) may cause blind spots in the central field, or throughout the visual field. Objects that are not seen cannot be avoided, so reduced visual fields are a common cause of falls, especially when coupled with environmental hazards. Age Related Vision Loss—. The most common pathological eye conditions which affect the elderly include cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Cataracts often develop

Coping with hot weather

Summertime can be very enjoyable with sunny, warm long days however excessive heat can lead to conditions such as heat stress and heat stroke of which people over the age of 65 years are more susceptible As we age our body’s mechanisms to cope with heat alters. Skin becomes thinner with age and we gradually lose the ability to perspire and regulate our body temperature. Older people therefore tend to overdress as they don’t feel heat the same way. Factors that may increase the risk of dehydration, heat stress and heat stroke in elderly people include:

  • Living alone – When living alone there is no one to assist if the person ignores the signs of dehydration
  • Self care problems – Reduced mobility may make it difficult for elderly person to adequately care for them selves in hot weather e.g. access water, prepare the house etc.
  • Chronic medical conditions – Heart, lung and kidney disease may increase risk of dehydration and heat stress.
  • Medications –Some medications can interfere with the ability to manage hot weather e.g. antipsychotic drugs commonly given to Alzheimer’s patient, anticholinergic drugs, sedative, beta blockers, diuretics, antihistamines and some antidepressants
  • Caffeine and alcohol intake

Below are the signs and symptoms that you and your loved ones should be aware of regarding heat related conditions Symptoms of heat exhaustion: Warning body is getting too hoot

  • Thirst, giddiness, weakness,