Fall Risks For Those Living With Dementia


As you’re going up or down a staircase, you may not be paying much attention to the color patterns of the carpet or floor. Maybe you’re on your phone, or carrying a box or just focused on where you’re going.

But the color patterns on the stairs and floor can have a significant impact on the chances of an older adult living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia suffering a fall.

When people think about cognitive decline, the first symptom that comes to mind is of course memory loss. But there are physiological changes that happen, and those changes can increase the chances of someone with dementia sustaining a fall.

Consider the example above with the stairs – many people living with cognitive decline also have visual impairment, particularly difficulty distinguishing between colors. So if the color or pattern of the stairs matches that of the floor, they may not be able to tell where the floors stop and the stairs begin, thus leading to a much higher chance of a fall.

And those falls are already a significant health risk for older adults in general – the CDC states that every year 36 million falls are reported among older adults. Falls cause 95% of hip fractures suffered by older adults and are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries in that demographic.

Helping Those With Cognitive Decline Stay Safe

Color patterns are just one thing to consider when safety-proofing the home for someone living with memory decline. Here are a few other warning signs to consider:

Impaired Hearing

Many older adults living with Alzheimer’s or dementia have their hearing affected, in many cases a static sound. As such, they may not hear a pet or another person coming around a corner, or other auditory clues that a fall risk might be in their vicinity.

Gait and Balance

Beginning in our 30s, we begin to lose muscle mass every decade as we age, which is a leading cause of falls among older adults regardless of cognitive abilities. But for those living with dementia, the disease can affect their gait and balance as they walk, leading them to shuffle their feet, feel unsteady as they walk and thus leave them prone to tripping over something.


Speaking of walking, wandering is common among those living with dementia. If your loved one finds themself in an unfamiliar location, they could easily get confused and agitated, leading them to get distracted and sustain a fall.

Diminished Judgment

Suppose it’s winter and there’s a fresh layer of snow outside the house. Someone living with cognitive decline who is already at a high risk for a fall decides to go for a walk anyway, slipping and falling in the bad weather. Impaired judgment is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s and dementia, so whether it’s going out in bad weather, at night or another high-risk situation, they may misjudge the circumstances and suffer a fall as a result.

Bathroom Safety

The bathroom can be the most dangerous room in the house when it comes to fall risk. It’s recommended you install grab bars so people can more easily get up and down, as well as non-slip mats for the tub, shower and floor. A nightlight in the bathroom also makes it easier for people to navigate in the dark.

Prestige Helps Keep Residents Safe

If any of the scenarios presented above sound familiar to a loved one, it may be time to consider senior living.

At Prestige, our memory care programming and safety policies help reduce the chances of our residents suffering a fall.

Our communities are staffed 24 hours a day with team members trained to mitigate fall risks for those living with cognitive decline. Furthermore, our communities are secured so that anyone who may wander remains safely inside the building and on the property.

All residents also undergo a physical assessment upon moving in, and then participate in fitness programming to help them build and maintain strength, counteracting some of the muscle loss that occurs naturally with age.

If you or a loved one needs help, find the community nearest you to learn more.