Background: Falls and dementia are two major public health problems which concern the elderly population. Cognitive impairment, as a result of Alzheimer's disease or non-Alzheimer dementia, is recognized as a risk factor for falling. Through the experience of the Multidisciplinary Falls Consultation, our aims were first, to evaluate the prevalence of a cognitive decline among outpatients who consult for falls, and second, to determine whether the cognitive impairment was known and diagnosed before the consultation or not.
Methods: Data concerning the first 300 outpatients who completed the initial evaluation are reported. Each patient was assessed by a geriatrician, a neurologist, and a physiatrist, who visited him or her at home. Cognitive impairment was defined as a Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) score<24.
Results: Of the 300 patients, 228 patients completed the initial evaluation. Among them, 97 (42.5 percent) had a MMSE score<24; 55 had mild stage dementia (MMSE score between 23 and 18) and 42 were at a moderate or severe stage (MMSE score< or =17/30). The cognitive decline was not diagnosed before the consultation in 80 of the 97 patients (82 percent).
Conclusion: The findings show that a large proportion of old persons presenting with gait disturbance at the Multidisciplinary Falls Consultation have an underlying cognitive decline. Assessment of cognitive functions is required in every elderly faller.