Fall Risks and The Brain: What You Need to Know for Elder Care

The first step in fall prevention for senior care is to understand how fall risks occur. Join us as we examine how the brain affects the likelihood of falls.

How Decreasing Brain Health Increases Fall Risks

Did you know that the chances of experiencing a fall increase significantly as we age? In fact, the NHS reports that 1 in 3 adults over 65 will suffer at least one fall each year, sometimes leading to fractures and prolonged hospital stays.

As a caregiver, understanding how the body contributes to risk factors is crucial in reducing your loved one’s risk of falling. In this article, we want to discuss how brain function directly impacts fall risks.

There are six critical points to the correlation between brain health and fall risks. These are:

1. Cognitive Function and Balance

A study revealed that older adults with mild cognitive impairment face double the risk of falling compared to those with normal cognition (Thanwarat Chantanachai et al., 2021). This is because cognition directly affects our balance and coordination.

2. Executive Function and Gait

Executive function also affects our gait speed and cadence. In other words, as we age, we are more likely to misstep or sway as we become less likely to judge walking distance and speed (Yogev-Seligmann G, Hausdorff JM and Giladi N., 2008).

3. Attention and Reaction Time

Attention spans also reduce as we age, heavily impacting reaction times, balance and gait (Liu Y, Chan JS and Yan JH., 2014). This is especially true when shifting between tasks.

senior man standing with walking aid

4. Dual Tasking

To dual-task effectively, we need to be able to focus, judge, and react at speed. We also need to consider the proper gait or stance for each task. As we’ve already discussed, this becomes more problematic as we age, which is why falls can occur when going from seated to standing positions or tackling stairs that we are unfamiliar with (S.W. Muir-Hunter and J.E. Wittwer, 2016).

5. Mood and Psychological Health

Depression has been linked to higher fall risks; older adults with depression suffer twice as many falls compared to those without (Kvelde, T. et al., 2013). Social isolation can also play a significant role in mood and psychological health, so always consider the effect this has on conditions like longer-term depression.

6. Medication

Some medications can affect brain changes and how we act and react. Symptoms like drowsiness, sedation, and a fall in blood pressure can extend reaction times or decrease spatial awareness.

Often, loved ones brush off pre-fall signals by saying things like, “Silly old me forgot where to put my feet!” or “Who put that table there?” So, if you notice knocks and spills becoming more regular, it’s time to think, “How can I reduce falls for my loved one?”

Grab our handy checklist to help you reduce fall risks at home.

Download here!
elderly lady taking tablet from weekly medication dispenser

How Dementia Compounds Fall Risks

Dementia directly affects attention, judgement, and problem-solving, essential for maintaining balance and reacting to environmental hazards.

Those living with dementia often see an increase in their fall risks by as much as eight times as a result (Allan et al., 2009).

Dementia also affects spatial awareness, depth perception and mobility, making judging safe and unsafe actions difficult.

Behavioural changes are also additional problems for people with dementia as they rely on impulsive or agitated reactions to situations they do not understand.

Communicating and truly understanding if your loved one needs help can be challenging, as dementia often makes verbal cues difficult to understand and reply to. In this instance, consider more than senior-proofing your home – consider visual cues. Is your loved one struggling more with task-specific actions and reactions? Are they eating and drinking enough? Is new medication a factor? Is it time for live-in care or dementia care plans?

There’s lots going on here, so speak to your GP or care professionals if you need more guidance. If you don’t have home care provision, contact us on 01923 250513

What can we do to reduce fall risks associated with brain health?

Several positive steps can be taken to reduce fall risks, and it all starts with a fall prevention care plan. Within that, you need provision for the following:

  • Regular Exercise: Encouraging older adults to engage in regular exercise, including activities that promote balance, strength, and flexibility, can help to improve their overall physical and cognitive health.
  • Home Modifications: Making necessary modifications to the home environment, such as removing tripping hazards, improving lighting, and installing handrails, can significantly reduce fall risks.
  • Medication Management: Working closely with your healthcare providers to review and adjust medications that may increase the risk of falls.
  • Regular Health Check-ups: Ensuring that older adults receive regular health check-ups, including vision and hearing assessments, can identify and address any underlying issues increasing fall risks.
  • Supervision and Support: Providing supervision and support, especially for those with cognitive impairments, can help prevent falls and ensure a safe living environment.

We will talk you through this in our checklist (download above). Where you need more help, it is worth seeking advice from fall prevention services. That’s where home care can help.

group of seniors enjoying a seated exercise class

How Home Care Significantly Reduces Fall Risks in Elder Care

Most people don’t know that home care exists. Maybe you don’t as you read this. But home care is one of the best ways to provide supervisory support that intersects with your GP and NHS health care plan, social care, and you, the family. In our experience, for most, it is the missing link.

Home care is a private service provided within the client’s home. It is intended to act as a more flexible and deeper provision than our overburdened social care system. It also supports your loved one by monitoring and carrying out GP and NHS care guidance. And it also supports you as a family, meaning you understand what is happening, when, where, and how.

It comes in many forms:

  • Home care: The provision of daily support
  • Live-in care: Around-the-clock nursing care
  • Condition-led care: Diagnosis-specific support (dementia care, cancer care, etc)

The right home care should provide the following:

  • Personalised supervision: Care professionals are trained to monitor and supervise elderly clients in a dignified way. Their detail to care will signal fall risks and mitigate the effects by stepping into action immediately.
  • Environment modification: A highly trained care professional has a keen eye, meaning trip or fall hazards are quickly spotted and removed. They may also advise you on products like chair risers, grab rails and chair lifts.
  • Tailored exercise programmes: Care professionals are trained to know which exercises to implement for each patient, meaning your loved one receives tailored care to help them remain mobile and independent for as long as possible.

In our experience, falls are drastically reduced through well-considered home care provision and a fall prevention program.

A home instead care professional teaching hoop exercises

How Home Instead Watford Can Help You Reduce Fall Risks

Home Instead Watford takes falls extremely seriously because we understand their brevity and long-term effects on your loved one’s health. That’s why we offer a free fall assessment for Watford residents.

Our care professionals all have fall prevention training and are equipped to provide you with the best home care services. So whether you decide to go with us or not, your fall prevention plan, provided after our visit, is yours to keep, free of charge.

Do you live in Watford and want a 100% free fall assessment for your beloved senior? Make your booking here.