UK study underlines high risk of falls and fractures in people with dementia

Tuesday 22nd May 2018
A UK study has highlighted the significant risk of falls and fractures among people with dementia.
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A new study has indicated that older people with dementia may require physiotherapy and other physical health interventions to help them reduce their significant risk of falling and suffering a fracture.

The research, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and conducted in association with King's College London, followed more than 8,000 people with dementia over an average of 2.5 years, finding that 31 per cent of them - around 2,500 people - had a fall that resulted in hospitalisation, while 18 per cent of the group suffered a fracture.

Vascular dementia, mixed dementia and dementia in other diseases were all shown to be associated with an increased risk of falls compared to Alzheimer's disease. Of note was the fact that people with dementia from ethnic minority groups - including Caribbean, African, and South Asian communities - had a decreased risk of falls.

Earlier studies suggested that poorer cognition or the use of medication were key risk factors for falls, but this new research indicates that the risk of hospitalisation is actually largely determined by environmental and socioeconomic factors.

As such, the researchers are calling for better coordination across different health specialties and social care to provide dementia patients with the resources and treatment they require to maintain their physical capabilities for as long as possible.

Study co-author Dr Brendon Stubbs, a postdoctoral research physiotherapist at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London, said: "Making environmental modifications, such as putting in hand rails or raising toilet seats, are important interventions that may help reduce falls for people with dementia.

"In addition, interventions that try to improve the physical health of people with dementia and improve balance may be important. We must urgently find better ways to prevent people with dementia falling and sustaining fractures."

Written by Mathew Horton

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