In past articles, I have addressed the risks of falling and even how best to prevent falls in the elderly through preventative measures throughout one’s house (i.e., use of grab rails, removing rugs that are not attached to the floor, etc.). However, I have not yet dedicated proper focus to the measures an individual can take to improve balance. On www.eldergym.com/elderly-balance, there is a wonderful set of guidelines (along with safety measures and videos that illustrate many exercises.
Balance ailments are one of the most prevalent reasons older people fall. Fall-related injuries, such as hip fractures, often seriously impact on an older person’s life. Fall for seniors can be devastating and can greatly impede activities or make it impossible to live independently. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults ages 65 years and older fall each year. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of injury related deaths.
Disturbances of the inner ear are often a main cause of balance problems. Maintaining one’s balance is integral to preserving independence and carrying out daily activities. Proper care of one’s feet and back are essential as well. At this past year’s Eagle County Senior Fair, local orthopedic doctor Brian Maurer spent considerable time educating those in attendance on the importance of proper foot care. Dr. Maurer explained the importance of proper fitting shoes, fungal and bacterial conditions, corns and calluses, and even dry skin.
Gait disorders also pose concerns for many seniors. As people age, daily routines such as walking, standing up from a chair and turning incorrectly can lead to falls. Vertebra misalignment, lower back issues and spinal stenosis are other ailments that unfortunately become more prevalent as we age. Fortunately for people here in the valley, we have great spine and back doctors such as Dr. Don Corenman that can assist in correcting some of the ailments time inflicts upon us.
The following points are taken from the website noted above. As we know, aging can naturally lead to a loss of functionality in certain body areas. Some of those areas could include:
• Loss of vision.
• Loss of muscle strength in legs.
• Poor posture.
• Drug interactions.
• Low blood pressure.
When we age, many factors come into play that lead to (or add to) our increased loss of balance. For example, we all know it becomes more difficult to run as far or as fast at 60 years old as when one was 20 years old.
People just lose certain abilities with age — we can forestall those losses to some degree, but our aging bodies will eventually change. The idea here is to reduce the rate of loss of these functions connected to falls through judicious and calculated exercises focused on the retaining one’s balance. As the article states, “Like anything else in life, it is about practice.”
Exercises TO TRY
Just as you must exercise your brain to keep it sharp, you must exercise your body to keep it sharp. The article provides a well-defined set of guidelines and exercises through videos. The exercises explained in the article will enhance upper body strength, as well as lower body strength. Also noted, one of the keys is to become or remain as active as possible.
A few of the guidelines include:
• If you are uncomfortable with any of the exercises, have a partner help you.
• Begin slowly until you get used to performing each exercise.
• Become comfortable with the exercise before attempting it.
• Practice two or more of these exercises for 10 minutes each day.
• Stick with it!
If you have questions about your feet, call Maurer at 970-949-0500. If you feel your back is the problem, call Corenman at 970-476-1100. As always, make sure check with your physician before starting a new regiment.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle, Garfield, and Routt counties. Contact him by visiting www.visitingangels.com/comtns or calling 970-328-5526.