Despite being a phenomenon often associated with children, adults falling out of bed at night is a surprisingly common issue.
Of course – the answer to why do elderly adults fall out of bed truly depends on the issue(s) that are causing your aging loved one to fall out of bed.
They could be any number (or combination) of things such as:
- Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
- Reaction to medication
- Changes to bed and/or sleepwear
- Morning stiffness
- Poor vision / poor lighting
- Medical conditions such as vertigo or hypotension
You need to know that it’s impossible to prevent all falls – BUT – it certainly is possible to reduce the chances of a fall.
The best prevention that you could provide may end up being a combination of tools such as bed rails and alert systems put together with precautionary intervention by the caregivers.
The interventions that you will be taking depend largely on knowing “why” they are falling out of bed in the first place.
Causes of Falls In People With Dementia or Alzheimer’s
Anyone that suffers from any form of dementia (including Alzheimer’s) is at a higher risk of falls. The reasons can be any one of these (or combination of) listed below:
- general physical weakness – although not all persons with dementia suffer from muscle weakness, the great majority do.
- changes in gait – you will sometimes see an altered gait which includes shorter steps, stumbling or tripping over their own feet, stiff knees, hips and/or ankles – all contribute to an altered gait which could increase fall risks.
- memory impairment – cognitive decline results in poor judgment which means that the individual is simply unable to assess if a situation is safe or not.
- visual / spatial problems – one factor many caregivers aren’t aware of is that Alzheimer’s can affect a person’s visuoperceptual skills which can mean that they can’t recognize common objects, they may have double vision, they can’t judge distance and they have trouble with depth of field (which makes using stairs very difficult).
Medications That Can Contribute To Falls In The Elderly
It’s not uncommon for our aging loved ones to be on multiple medications. It’s important, as caregivers, that we monitor what they are taking and how much.
The Center For Disease Control (CDC) created a wonderful PDF flyer listing 10 types of medications that can contribute to falls in individuals 65 years of age and older. Get the flyer here.
The types of medications they listed are…
- Antidepressants (TCA’s and SSRI’s)
- Any medicine affecting blood pressure
- Muscle relaxants
The CDC also warns about over the counter medications and herbal supplements.
Before taking any medication or supplement, I urge you to consult with your doctor and to learn as much as you can about that particular product.
My late husband was a very health conscious person (much more than me!). But, he had insomnia and struggled for years to find anything that would help him.
I remember at one point, he began taking some herbal supplement for sleep that had a combination of herbs.
It did work, but after 4 months of taking this all natural herbal concoction he developed severe jaundice and had to undergo 12 months of treatment.
So, be very careful when it comes to any over the counter medicine or supplements.
Changes To The Bed, Placement of Bed and/or Sleepwear
Moving the bed to a new location in the room (or a new room), using a different type of sleepwear that may be uncomfortable or unfamiliar or a new bed, perhaps it’s higher or lower.
All of these issues can contribute to an older adult having to get up and possibly fall.
How Does Morning Stiffness Contribute To Falls
Most of us, as we age, will begin waking up with morning stiffness. It’s actually extremely common.
It’s usually due to worn out joints and/or muscle tightness. Of course, there are other factors that may be causing (or contributing) to it such as arthritis.
Whatever the cause, if your senior loved one(s) attempt to get out of bed while their muscles are hurting and stiff, their knees could buckle and they could fall.
There are ways to help to prevent this and we’ll go over those later on in this article.
How Low Vision / Poor Lighting Increases The Probability Of Falls
It makes sense that if the elderly you are caring for are unable to see clearly as they get out of bed, they can easily trip over something and fall.
Or perhaps they would try to reach for something such as a nightstand or walker and they over reach which could then also lead them to fall.
Again, we’ll be reviewing ways to alleviate this problem later on.
There are a multitude of medical conditions that could easily contribute to falling out of bed. Some of these are…
- Balance issues due to stroke or other neurological issue
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Sleep disorders
- Heart disease
If your senior loved one(s) suffers from any of these extra precautions are indicated to avoid falling out of bed.
Tools such as bed rails and alarms are what comes to mind immediately but we will discuss these and more options later on.