How should I respond if my good friend with Alzheimer’s falls?

As with any “rescue” mission, you must make sure you are secure first. Can you help safely on your own? Are you strong enough? Is the injured person cooperative?

The reason for these cautions is if you become injured, then perhaps neither of you would get the help you need.

You should background yourself in techniques that you can use to help should a fall occur — whether it’s with a friend or relative, or someone who has Alzheimer’s or simply a frail, elderly individual who might need assistance. For example, gait belts are common tools to assist ambulation. These strong canvas straps are designed specifically for helping in these situations, among others.

If your friend or loved one starts to go down when you are nearby, you can simply grab the belt to slow the tumble and lower the person to the floor. This softens the fall, but remember: You have to be careful not to injure yourself as well. Gait belts are commonly available for purchase through durable medical equipment companies, home care agencies and others.

Once the person is down, if you can’t get her or him up and nobody else is around to assist you, CALL 911. There should be no embarrassment or concern about this. Most emergency responders are well trained in how to deal with people who have fallen, Alzheimer’s patients, people who wander or are choking, etc. They are more than willing to come into a home to assist you.

 They also can do an assessment of any possible injuries, and transport your friend or loved one to the hospital for proper review and treatment. The transportation piece for a disoriented or uncooperative patient can be especially helpful, rather than trying to do it alone.

There are many accounts of caregivers calling 911 for help and getting it wonderfully. These families report being treated with full respect, concern and care, so call if you need help!  

Wander and falls management companies offer an array of alerting devices that can help a person call for help. These items can be worn like faux watches or necklaces so they blend right in. The wearer pushes a button and someone out of the area is summoned for help. The systems are plentiful and can be researched on the Internet. 

Dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s is a daunting task. There’s no need to tackle it alone, however. An excellent resource is “The Indispensable Alzheimer’s Resource Kit.” It can be downloaded at no cost by clicking here.