Caring Checklist: What to Be Sure to Tell a Doctor After Someone With Dementia Falls

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After your loved one with dementia falls, it's critical to first determine whether you need to call 911 or get same-day nonemergency medical treatment. Even if there seem to be no signs of injury, you should mention a fall at the next regular checkup.

Note: It's probably best if you plan on doing the talking instead of the person with dementia. There's a lot to cover and time is often at a premium during a medical visit. You'll be a more accurate reporter of symptoms, medications, and other conditions than the person with dementia. (You can invite your loved one to add additional details.)

(Find out why doctors sometimes prefer to talk to caregivers instead of patients.)

Whenever you discuss an accidental fall with medical personnel, whether at the ER or in the doctor's office, you'll get better help if you're sure to cover the following points:

Information about the fall to share

Explain how the fall happened, and where.

Did your loved one trip on a carpet? Stumble on stairs? Lose balance? Suddenly just collapse?

Note whether there were any obvious symptoms before the fall.

For example, light-headedness?

A loss of balance?

Chest pain?

Shortness of breath?


Overall weakness, or weakness on one side?

Was there a loss of consciousness before or after the fall?

Describe anything else the faller said about the fall.

Does he or she remember blacking out?

Feeling nauseated?

Being surprised?

Think about whether there's been a pattern of falls.

Was this an isolated incident or part of a series of falls?

If the person has fallen before, how were the circumstances the same, or different, this time?

Convey how the person has been feeling and acting since the fall.

Any change in mobility?

Any change in range of motion?

Any confusion?

Any sleepiness?

Any change in confidence about walking?

Any complaints of pain?

Other relevant background information the doctor needs

Stage of dementia

What is the person with dementia usually like?

Explain mental status:

  • Mildly/moderately/very forgetful

  • Mildly/moderately/very disoriented (knowing where he or she is and what's going on)

Explain functional status:

  • Can/can't usually manage walking, transferring (getting out of bed/chair)

  • Moves around with nothing/cane/walker/wheelchair

  • How far the person can walk: just a few feet, around the house, less than a block, a few blocks or more

  • Whether the person can manage dressing, getting to the bathroom, feeding self

Other physical conditions

Is there normally any evidence of bladder or bowel incontinence?

What other medical conditions (besides dementia) is the person being treated for? Especially relevant conditions may be:

  • Hypertension

  • Congestive heart failure

  • Coronary artery disease

  • Cancer

  • Diabetes

  • Parkinson's disease

  • Previous stroke

  • Arthritis

  • Any neurological disease


Bring a current list of all medications, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter products, and herbs or supplements.

Ideally, bring the medications themselves in a bag. (The problem with lists, alone, is that they tend to be quickly outdated.)

Does the person use alcohol or other drugs? How often?

Living situation

Make sure doctors understand where the person lives:

  • With you?

  • In a nursing home?

  • In assisted living?

  • With a fulltime caregiver, or independently with caregivers dropping in?

Contact information

The treating physicians need to know who the person's primary medical doctor is, along with that doctor's address and phone number.

Dr. Leslie Kernisan

Leslie Kernisan is a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics, and maintains a popular blog and podcast at BetterHealthWhileAging. See full bio

over 4 years, said...

Sorry - turned out Dad had a concussion, but everything else was as they expected - brain had shrunk quite a bit, plaque on the arteries (a lot of it), no rips/tears/bleeds.

over 4 years, said...

My Father just recently (Day after Thanksgiving 2013), took a hard fall and hit his head on the linoleum floor so hard it was heard throughout the 2,000+ square foot living room area of the Independent Living facility. Got a goose-egg right away on the back of his head, and another skin tear on his arm that just healed from his last big fall. I took him to Urgent Care when I got there (about 30 minutes after he fell). The UC Dr. advised me that anytime someone over 75 years old hits their head, they need to have a CT scan done in order to be sure there is no damage to the brain, or blood vessels going to/in the brain. 4 hours later, we are on our way back to his apartment. So here's a tip - if they fall and hit their head, no matter how small the fall, they need a CT scan if they are over 75 years old!

almost 6 years, said...

Telling me what things I need to try to assest so I can tell the doctor or ER personnel. Mother usually isn't much help.

almost 7 years, said...

Hello concernedhus­band, Thank you very much for your question. I'm very sorry to hear about the situation with your wife, that must be very difficult for you both. If you'd like, you can post your questions in our Ask & Answer section, here: ( ). Take care -- Emily | Community Manager

almost 7 years, said...

my wife has been diagnosed with Dementia , she just turned 60 in july and Inoticed while she was going thru menopause Istarted to see many changes in her behavior she stated to become confrontational aggresive,showing signs of lapse of memory unable to concentrate ,slurred speech incontenence sleep apneia and several episodes of falling because she was unable to maintain her balance, walking with agait dragging her feet she is also a Diabetic TYPE 1 INSULINE DEPENDENT.rrecently she was hospitalized and the neurologist after several tests in cluding an angogram of the brain dianosed her with densia. my question is do you think this assocated with menopause? because this is when these symptoms started to manifest teir selfs.

almost 7 years, said...

Hello cateyemarble­, Thank you very much for your comment. You can print out this check list by clicking the "print" link located in the tool bar under the title of the checklist. I hope that helps. Take care -- Emily | Community Manager

almost 7 years, said...

Would be nice to have this made interactive to respond and put comments in to take to DR appointment. Would need a printable format then.