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Fall Rate Nearly 50% Among Older Americans with Dementia

Older woman walking with cane down hospital hallway with younger woman

January 12, 2023

With falls causing millions of injuries in older adults each year, it is an increasingly important public health concern. Older adults living with dementia have twice the risk of falling and three times the risk of incurring serious fall-related injuries, like fractures, compared to those without dementia.

For older adults with dementia, even minor fall-related injuries can lead to hospitalization and nursing home admission. A new study from researchers at Drexel University has shed light on the many and varied fall-risk factors facing older adults in community-living environments.

Recently published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, the research led by Safiyyah Okoye, PhD, MSN, assistant professor of nursing in Drexel's College of Nursing and Health Professions with a joint appointment in Dornsife's Department of Health Management and Policy, and Jennifer L. Wolff, PhD, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, examined a comprehensive set of potential fall-risk factors — including environmental factors, in addition to health and function — in older community-living adults in the United States, both with and without dementia.

“Examining the multiple factors, including environmental ones like a person’s home or neighborhood, is necessary to inform fall-risk screening, caregiver education and support, and prevention strategies for this high-risk population of older adults,” said Okoye, who joined Drexel as part of the NIH-funded Drexel FIRST (Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation) program.

Despite awareness of this elevated risk, there are very few studies that have examined fall-risk factors among people with dementia living in a community setting (not nursing homes or other residential facilities). The studies that do exist, overwhelmingly focus on health and function factors. According to the authors, this is the first nationally representative study to compare a comprehensive set of potential risk factors for falls for older Americans living with dementia to those without dementia.

Read the full article on the Drexel News site: Fall Rate Nearly 50% Among Older Americans with Dementia