According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, scores of Americans aged 65-and-over fall every year, resulting in nearly 3 million emergency room visits, over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 fatalities. Unfortunately, many of those injurious falls take place in the home and are due to a lack of balance and coordination.
If you’re caring for an aging in place elderly loved one, showing them how to improve their balance and coordination can help prevent falls and ensure a higher quality-of-life. What follows are some reliable ways to do so.
Why Do Seniors Fall?
Falls are the leading cause of injuries to elderly Americans, with poor balance and coordination accounting for a vast majority of those. According to WebMD, a loss of balance can be caused by these factors:
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – This is the most common type of vertigo that seniors experience, although vertigo can also be caused by migraine headaches, head injuries and other medical conditions.
- Orthostatic hypotension – This makes a senior feel lightheaded when they stand or sit up too quickly and their blood pressure drops too much. Cardiovascular disease can also cause lightheadedness.
- Poor eyesight – Vision problems oftentimes lead to a loss of balance.
- Diminished muscle strength – As someone ages, they lose muscle mass and strength, which can then make it easier for them to fall.
- Poor agility – Oftentimes found in those with diminished muscle strength, poor agility increases one’s likelihood to fall.
- Inner ear problems – Vestibular system abnormalities can cause dizziness.
- Medications – Certain medications can disrupt balance and coordination.
When you’re caring for an aging loved one whose balance and coordination are getting noticeably worse, it’s best for them to see their doctor. Once there, the doctor will do some balance testing to find out if there’s an issue, and why.
How to Improve Balance and Coordination
In general, there are several ways for a senior to improve poor balance and coordination when those are related to muscle strength, agility, a medical condition or combination thereof. Here are some of the better ones:
Different forms of low-impact exercises can increase flexibility, muscle strength, and thus balance and coordination. Those exercises include:
- Standing on one foot
- Walking heel-to-toe (“tight-roping”)
- Doing the balance walk
- Back and side leg raises
Researchers have further found that participating in Yoga or Tai Chi improves balance and coordination for those 65-and-over, and they are also great ways to stimulate an appetite, promote a better night’s sleep, reduce stress and strengthen the immune system.
Have Their Vision Tested
As was mentioned earlier, vision loss can also lead to poor balance and coordination. If you think poor vision is affecting your loved one, have their eyes tested by a good eye doctor. Correcting the problem could be as simple as some new prescription lenses, or it could require the surgical removal of cataracts from their eyes. At the end of the day, being able to see more clearly will also enhance their balance and coordination.
Address Underlying Medical Conditions
Working with their doctor, focus on any medical-related problems that could be causing poor balance, like an inner ear infection, low blood pressure, medications they’re taking, or other contributing factors.
Try Using an Assistive Device
If all else fails, try encouraging your loved one to use an assistive device like a cane or walker. Some seniors are hesitant to do so because it makes them look “older”, but pointing out the long-term ramifications of suffering a serious fall may change your loved one’s mind.
We Help Aging in Place Seniors Avoid Falls
Trying to help an aging in place loved one avoid falls can be challenging, especially when you can’t be around them all the time. When you need a hand, contact First In Care. As a fully licensed and insured home care agency, our compassionate caregivers understand the importance of fall prevention for seniors so they can continue aging comfortably in place right where they want to be.
While in the home, our highly trained and carefully screened aides can also perform services like light housework, personal hygiene, meals, medication reminders, transportation and companionship. And, all our home care amenities can be individually tailored in an affordable package when and where you need them. To learn more about why families in Manatee County, FL, are placing their trust in First In Care, please visit: www.firstincare.com now!