Fall risk factors in older people with dementia or cognitive impairment: a systematic review

Authors

  • Jürgen Härlein,

    1. Jürgen Härlein MA RN Lecturer School of Nursing, General Hospital Fürth, Germany
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  • Theo Dassen,

    1. Theo Dassen PhD RN Professor, Director of the Department of Nursing Science Centre for the Humanities and Health Science, Charité–Universitätsmedizin, Berlin, Germany
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  • Ruud J. G. Halfens,

    1. Ruud J.G. Halfens PhD FEANS Associate Professor Department of Health Care and Nursing Science, Universiteit Maastricht, The Netherlands
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  • Cornelia Heinze

    1. Cornelia Heinze PhD RN Assistant Professor Department of Nursing Science, Centre for the Humanities and Health Science, Charité– Universitätsmedizin, Berlin, Germany
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J. Härlein: e-mail: juergen.haerlein@gmx.de

Abstract

Title. Fall risk factors in older people with dementia or cognitive impairment: a systematic review.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a review conducted to identify and summarize specific risk factors for falls in older people with dementia or cognitive impairments as documented by prospective or case–control studies.

Background.  People with dementia have a doubled to threefold risk for falls, but the reasons for this have not yet been fully explained. Several integrative literature reviews discuss possible specific fall risk factors. However, there is lack of a systematic evaluation of studies.

Data sources.  The CINAHL, PubMed, EMBASE and PsychInfo databases were searched for the period between 1980 and May 2007.

Review methods.  A systematic review was conducted. Cohort or case–control studies published in English or German were included if they investigated risk factors for falls or fall-related injuries in a sample consisting of participants with dementia or cognitive impairment. Two reviewers independently assessed study quality.

Results.  Six prospective studies were included in the review. These differed concerning samples, settings, follow-up periods and examined variables. Therefore, meta-analysis was not possible. Eight categories of risk factors emerged: disease-specific motor impairments, impaired vision, type and severity of dementia, behavioural disturbances, functional impairments, fall history, neuroleptics and low bone mineral density.

Conclusion.  There is lack of sound studies examining fall risk factors in cognitively impaired elders. Well-known risk factors such as motor impairment show particular characteristics in people with dementia. In addition, behavioural disturbances contribute to their high risk for falls. Further prospective studies are needed.

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