Senior Balance Issues

Balance for seniors is usually considered to be a good thing.  We like to keep our spending in balance with our income to maintain our financial health.  We like to  get adequate exercise and adequate rest to maintain our physical and mental health, and keep our caloric usage balanced with our caloric intake to maintain our weight. We need balance in our lives.  Balance is defined as a state of equilibrium, or even distribution of weight enabling someone to remain upright and steady.

When we lose our equilibrium, we fall.  Falling is a leading cause of injury and death in seniors over age 65 according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).  Some of these events are due to issues with balance.  Loved ones can help seniors avoid falling by addressing equilibrium issues.

A logical starting place to regain our equilibrium could be to find the cause of the struggle to maintain our balance.  It might well be a medical issue. When the cause of one’s imbalance is found, steps should be taken to reduce or even eliminate the cause of loss of balance.

The National Institutes of Health suggests causes of struggling to keep one’s balance could include ear infections, or swelling because of upper respiratory or bacterial infections, stroke, low blood pressure, and interactions of medications.

If a senior we love is struggling with balance issues, medical professionals can be contacted, tests can be taken and medications can be reviewed to bring relief or at least some comfort to the senior.

Exercise

 We also need to remember the importance of regular exercise.  It’s easy for many of us to fall into the trap of becoming couch potatoes.  Our bodies are designed to be active.  Physical activity keeps our bodies strong and our circulation active

 Healthy circulation through the brain helps to keep the brain clear of toxins that can have a deleterious effect on our balance.  Remaining physically active is not an option for the senior who wishes to remain in the best possible health.

Once a physician has discovered the cause of the balance issue, he or she may recommend a physical therapist for certain exercises to help us to find a solution or receive some comfort.

A physical therapist might recommend exercises to help us stay on our feet.  They can recommend activity programs that focus on stability, flexibility, and strength, and endurance, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.  These exercises can help us feel more stable while on our feet and reduce the chance of falling.

Our Balance

For those of us who would like to work on improving our balance, help is available.  Videos are available to help us practice and keep track of our progress as we strengthen our balance skills.  Here is a good starting point to check and improve our balance skills (click on the highlighted words to see the link).

Another issue that can affect our balance is vertigo.  We have vertigo if we experience dizziness or a sensation of spinning, the things around you spinning, or feeling you are tilted and struggle to keep upright.  About 42% of Americans experience dizziness at least once in their lifetime.

Vertigo can be caused by weakness, inner ear disorders, sensory deficits, a concussion, stroke, or a brain injury.  Balance problems are related to our inner ear, vision, muscular system and our “proprioception”, or a sense or our body’s position

There are two paths of treatment for those suffering with vertigo.  One is medication proscribed by our health care professional.   This can help in some situations.

Another path is to see a physical therapist and get what is called “balance therapy”.  A physical therapist can help determine the cause of our vertico or balance issues and plan a course of treatment to strengthen our muscles and restore our sense of balance to help us return to our former, confident selves.

Several years back, when I was still teaching in the classroom, I was afflicted with vertigo.  It was a really strange feeling when I lay flat on my back on my bed and still felt the need to spread my arms out to avoid falling off the bed.  It was also very disorienting.  My doc gave me some meds, and I was back on my feet and feeling safe again in a day or so.

Yup, sometimes we value our health most completely when it is challenged!

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