Mom forgets to use her walker and keeps falling. Help!

Tryingtosmile asked...

Mom suffers from dementia that seems to be progressing more quickly, lately. She lives with my husband, adult son and I. She cares for most of her own needs and does some housework.

The problem is her forgetting to use her walker about 33% of the time. She has great bone density and has survived most falls with no injury. However, all falls have occured when she was not using her walker. I realize that it could be the next fall that will cause a fracture or worse. Any suggestions would me most appreciated.

Thank you

Expert Answer

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

Ouch! You are so right in acknowledging the dangers of an elderly person falling; fractured bones or sprained ligaments are usually the grave result. Older persons are more fragile and less sure-footed than their younger version and adding memory loss to this scenario can cause the concern that you have expressed. Using a walker with dementia certainly compounds this already scary scenario. The problem is, of course, in not having stored the information about using the walker and its safety factors. Without the storage of this pertinent info, she cannot recall it when it is time to use this device.

The best Special Care Units, for community based long term care, use devices on chairs and beds that emit a sound when the resident arises thus alerting staff that a memory impaired resident at risk for falls is about to stand or walk away. It is rare to see a walker being used in the best settings as repeated reminders do not help to store this needed info and instead seem to make the impaired person agitated. Few memory impired adults like to be reminded of an impairment.

Try to offer the walker to your Mom whenever you see her begin to stand. Limit the conversation about it.

The alerting device mentioned above is available at The Alzheimer's Store; the personnel there are very helpful with finding appropriate solutions so it may well be worth it to contact them directly or online at