Everyone suffers a fall once in a while. Too high heels, uneven ground, a cracked floorboard . . . these are things that can trip up anyone. Usually, we get back up off the ground unharmed, or with only a few scratches and bruises. But older adults may experience more frequent falls because their sense of balance is off. What’s more is that for them, falls present a special danger. They are the leading cause of hip fractures among older adults, a serious injury which can lead to long-term functional impairment.[1. “Hip Fracture Prevention,” January 2013, https://www.orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00309]
Needless to say, Preventing falls in the geriatric population is of paramount concern. Fortunately, there is a lot that Mountain View home care aides can do to help.
What causes balance-related falls?
The following are all conditions or situations that can affect your balance:
- Prescription drugs. Many older adults are on a number of medications whose side effects include dizziness or vertigo.
- Peripheral nerve damage. This is when nerves in your hands and feet don’t send signals to the brain the way they should. If your feet are affected, you may be unable to sense when surfaces are unsafe to walk on. Peripheral nerve damage is often common in individuals with Type 2 diabetes and those with neuropathy.
- Neurological conditions. Conditions of the brain that can affect balance include Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS). Balance is also a common issue for people who’ve suffered a stroke.
- Postural hypotension. This refers to the sudden drop in blood pressure when someone rises from a seated position, or when they get out of bed. It can cause lightheadedness, which affects balance.
- Motion sickness. When one part of your brain says that a surface is steady (such as the floor of a boat or car), but your inner ear senses movement, it can lead to motion sickness – and loss of balance.
- Vertigo. Other inner ear issues that result in the sensation of unsteadiness can easily make a person lose their balance and fall.
How to make your balance better
Preventing falls is a crucial part of the job for a Mountain View home care aide. Fortunately, like any motor skill, balance can be maintained – and perhaps even improved – with certain types of exercise. One of the biggest parts of this is performing activities that strengthen your hips, knees, and ankles along with your sense of balance. Here are a few your aide can “spot” you for:
- Standing on one leg. Stand straight up and raise one leg. Bend your knee at 45 degrees and hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs and do it again.
- Walking heel-to-toe. With the heel of your front foot touching the toe of your back foot, try to take 10 steps forward.
- Side-stepping. Step to the right, then place your left foot against your right foot, lengthwise. Step to the right again and cross your left leg behind your right. Try another side step, this time crossing your left leg in front of your right.
- Standing up from a chair. Sitting in a firm chair, try to stand unassisted, without using your arms for balance.
- Ankle pumping. If you get dizzy when rising from your bed, try this: sit on the edge of the bed and pump your ankles before attempting to stand.
- Tai chi. This is a type of martial art that’s well known for its health benefits[2. “What is Tai Chi? What are the health benefits of Tai Chi?” September 2, 2013, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265507.php]. Among other things, it can be excellent for promoting balance.
Balance things out with a Mountain View home care aide
By age 65, one in three people will have a potentially serious fall. A Mountain View home care aide may be able to help prevent this – along with the lifelong consequences that can follow. After speaking to your physician about what balance exercises are right for you, start practicing them with your caregiver right away. You’ll be more likely to live a healthy, balanced life!
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.