Seeing our loved ones age can be a difficult process. We want what’s best for our parents and grandparents, and as their health changes it’s not uncommon to worry about their safety. A serious side effect that we, as physical therapists, often see with aging is the increased risk of falling and loss of balance. If a loved one takes just one fall, we are always left to worry that it may happen again. Falls could lead to serious injury, and could cause some people to feel unsafe in their own homes.
Balance issues can be a result of many different things, including surgery, arthritis, stroke, side effects of medicine, or a general lack of mobility and slowed reaction times that may occur with aging. Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, vestibular inner ear changes, and high blood pressure could also bring on bouts of dizziness. However, once you begin to experience a lack of balance, there is hope for controlling the symptoms before they get worse. Balance can be improved by exercises that increase strength, flexibility, reaction times, and the ability to maintain positions. In addition, making minor changes in the home can improve safety and prevent falls. The treatment of vertigo includes positional techniques and repeated exercises to reduce the sensation of dizziness. In some situations, balance retraining could allow older adults to continue to live independently, and with less fear of falling. Knowing that these treatments and techniques are available could be comforting to those who help care for older adults.
If you are interested in learning more about balance and falls, or if you have a loved one who may be at risk, attend our educational event on Wednesday, November 6, from 6 to 7 p.m. Our guest will be Dr. James DeWitt, DPM, of Advanced Foot & Ankle Associates. Learn more or RSVP at www.northernpts.com/rsvp.
Written by: Gina Otterbein and Janis Kemper are physical therapists and co-owners of Northern Physical Therapy. With five West Michigan locations, their therapists specialize in women’s health, back and neck pain, and occupational therapy. They are currently celebrating their twentieth year in business. More information can be found at www.northernpts.com.