Management of Gait Changes and Fall Risk in MCI and Dementia

  • Gilles AllaliEmail author
  • Joe Verghese
Dementia (J Pillai, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Dementia

Opinion statement

Gait disorders and falls are very prevalent in aging, especially in older adults with cognitive impairment: older adults with dementia are 2–3 times more likely to fall than their non-demented counterparts. The management of gait disorders and falls in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia begins by their identification with the use of specific screening tools, such as measuring gait speed, use of dual-task gait tests, or diagnosing motoric cognitive risk syndrome, a newly described pre-dementia syndrome. This clinical approach is useful to reveal subtle gait changes that may lead to an increased risk of falls in older adults. Various non-pharmacological interventions have been tested in older adults with MCI or dementia to reduce risk of falls. Physical activity interventions are feasible in older adults with cognitive impairments, and may improve gait, and thereby decrease risk of falls. Besides non-pharmacological interventions, identification and removal of potentially inappropriate medications (i.e., psychotropic drugs) is part of a comprehensive falls management strategy in older patients. The use of anti-dementia drugs, such as cholinesterase inhibitors or memantine, may help to improve gait in demented older adults. Adopting a multidisciplinary care strategy that integrates general practitioners, geriatricians, neurologists, cardiologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists to identify older adults at increased risk of falling or with subtle gait changes, prior to applying individualized non-pharmacological and/or pharmacological interventions, is essential to reduce the burden of gait disorders and falls in older adults with cognitive impairment.


Fall Gait disorders Aging Dementia Mild cognitive impairment Intervention 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Gilles Allali was supported by a grant from the Baasch-Medicus Foundation.

Joe Verghese was supported by supported by the National Institute on Aging grants (RO1 AGO44007 and R01 AG036921) and an intramural grant from the Resnick Gerontology Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

References and Recommended Reading

Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance, •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurology, Division of Cognitive and Motor Aging, Albert Einstein College of MedicineYeshiva UniversityBronxUSA
  2. 2.Department of Clinical NeurosciencesGeneva University Hospitals and University of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

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