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Elder Care Spotlight -The Balance Issue:

Balance is a major issue for adults as they start to get older. There are many reasons why this deterioration begins to manifest as people age, like:

  • Loss of sensory elements

  • Motor command issues

  • Poor musculoskeletal function

  • Diabetes

  • Heart-disease

  • Stroke

  • Vision problems

  • Thyroid imbalances

  • Nerve problems

  • Blood vessel issues


In order to have balance, we have to have good vision, vestibular senses, proprioception, muscle strength, and appropriate reaction time. When an elderly person falls, they are usually missing one of these elements. When balance is absent, then the risk of falling increases. This is why there are over 36 million falls, that is more than one of every four Americans age 65 or older reported every year in the US alone. These falls usually result in broken bones, head injuries, and unfortunately, more than 32,000 deaths. Falling is a major risk, and something to consider when caregiving for an elderly person.


Studies show that people complain of being dizzy or out of equilibrium as they get older. People experience some sort of imbalance as they age past 60 years of age. This is when we see more canes, walkers, and even wheelchairs being used to help with safety concerns. People with balance disorders experience dizziness, vertigo, lightheadedness, faintness, blurred vision, confusion, disorientation, or a floating, staggering, or falling sensation when walking. Sometimes the fear of falling becomes disabling, and the anxiety alone increases the symptoms.


So what can we do about this? First of all, always put safety first. If there is doubt that the elderly person is able to walk across the room alone, then it is time for a cane or walker to support them. Do not take chances, as a fall can sometimes take a while to come back from or even be the catalyst to more complicated health problems in the future. Secondly, strengthening exercises for the legs, the core, the glutes, and the hips can make a difference over time. The stronger that we are, the better we will be able to hold ourselves up. Avoid renting or buying homes with multiple levels, as stairs can become a big challenge in the elder years. If you have to walk across smooth surfaces, always wear slippers or shoes that have grip and provide stability. Install bars and benches in the bathroom, and other rooms, to make it easier to get around safely. Avoid loose rugs that are easy to trip over, and make sure that there is a clear pathway to each location the elderly person is walking to around the house. It is also advised to avoid alcohol, research the medications being taken and make sure they are not the cause, get enough rest, check hearing and eyesight yearly, get the blood checked for signs of imbalance, and always check in with the doctor after a fall, God forbid that happens. Remember that it is important to get help when it is needed and remember that movement is life. The more we all move our bodies, put healthy elements into the system, and keep our minds and hearts balanced, the better the body will be able to support us and carry us into our elder years.

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