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Fall Management in Alzheimer-related Dementia: A Case Study

Mirolsky-Scala, Gail PT, DPT1; Kraemer, Theresa2

Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy: 2009 - Volume 32 - Issue 4 - p 181–189
Case Report

Background and Purpose: Nursing home residents with dementia are at an increased risk of falls. This case report describes a physical therapist's approach to fall management in a patient with Alzheimer's disease in a long-term care facility.

Case Description: An 85-year-old female with Alzheimer's disease began to experience impaired balance and weakness resulting in gait deviations and falls. The combination of clinical findings, scores on several clinical measures, and fall history classified her as being at high risk for future falls.

Intervention: The physical therapy fall management program included lower extremity and core therapeutic exercise, balance, gait, and assistive device training, and caregiver instruction in the form of a functional maintenance program (FMP) with focus on activities that activated the implicit memory system while emphasizing aspects of communication that are typically preserved in patients with dementia.

Outcomes: After 4 weeks of twelve 30 minute sessions, the patient's Tinetti Assessment Tool score increased from 8/28 to 16/28 and Berg Balance Scale score from 7/56 to 19/56. The number of documented incident reports related to falls decreased from 2 to 0 in a 4-week period of time. On the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health, the patient improved in 4 areas of the Impairments of Body Functions domain, in 12 areas of the Activity Limitations and Participation Restriction domain, and in 3 areas of the Environmental Factors domain.

Discussion: Positive functional outcomes were achieved through a modification of typical fall prevention interventions that took into consideration the patient's decreased cognition, communication deficits, and behavior problems.

1Ledgeview Living Center, West Paris, ME

2University of New England, Portland, ME

Address correspondence to: Gail Mirolsky-Scala (

Copyright © 2009 the Section on Geriatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association
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