How do shoes affect falls in dementia and elders?
Falling is a risk associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. And it’s a risk in elders in general. They may trip on unseen objects or uneven flooring. Or maybe they’re gait is unsteady. There are some simple steps that can help, one of the best is looking at the shoes they wear.
For many years my mother Clara wore low heel pumps when she left the house. The heels were often small, and it looked like her toes were cramped. My feet hurt just thinking about it!
Until one day when I gave her a pair of my oxfords that were too small for me but fit her perfectly. They had lots of room for toes, and the soles were thick. They had less height than her pumps. And more importantly, they stabilized her walk.
Why was her gait more stable? The reasons include…
- The surface of the sole of the shoe was flat on the floor, and larger. With pumps the shoe surface touching the floor was only the bottom of the heel and the ball of her foot forward to the toes. With the oxfords, the entire shoes bottom made contact with the floor.
- The bottom of the oxford shoe was made of different material than the pumps. And the oxfords had some ridges. Both the material and the ridges gripped the floor better and stabilized the shoe, her foot and her gait.
- The oxford shoe also helped prevent her turning her ankle from its sturdier construction.
Her gait was better, she was more confident walking and thus walked more, and had fewer scares about falling. And a wonderful side effect was that with the oxford, her bunions and corns disappeared with time. The pumps although more stylish, definitely were causing issues with walking.
Getting her to try the shoes worked because the original shoes I gave her were ones I could not wear any longer. And she didn’t want them to go to waste. Hey, it worked!
Caregiving tip: A closed shoe (no open toe and covers the foot) can also help prevent injury from dropping something on your foot.
Another option may be a recommendation from a professional for shoes for health reasons. You may need to ask for advice, since it’s not always on the appointment agenda.
What’s your experience with shoes and walking? Share in the comments.
To your Happy & Healthy Caregiving,
Ina Gilmore MD
Founder, Caregiving With Purpose
Purple Angel Dementia Ambassador
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