The physical and cognitive changes that occur with aging are often exacerbated by inactivity. This can lead to muscle weakness, joint problems, and loss of balance. Many seniors may also find themselves dealing with dizziness as a result of vertigo or other types of balance disorders. The result: unsteadiness when walking, falls that cause bruises and broken bones, and in many elders, fear of straying far from home. If you or a loved one is dealing with a loss of balance due to aging, there are a few things you should know that can help.
Improving Balance with Exercise
Doing balance exercises regularly can help older adults avoid falls and walk with more confidence. In 2013, French researchers found that balance training for seniors could reduce falls by 37%. Many balance exercises, such as briefly standing on one leg, can be done during normal daily activities. Others, such as tai chi and yoga, also will help build flexibility. Be sure your loved one gets proper training to do balance exercises correctly. Of course, check with a physician before beginning any exercise program.
If you think that someone you care for could improve his or her quality of life by using a simple mobility aid, talk to a physician or other qualified health professional to get advice. Also keep your eye on certain conditions in the home to spot any potential problems. These include household hazards, mess and clutter, slippery or wet floors, loose rugs or scatter mats, poor lighting, thresholds that are obstacles, and unsafe bathrooms.
Utilizing Mobility Aids
At times we all need tools to facilitate our journey through life, and using mobility aids such as a walker, cane, or wheelchair in later years is no exception. Like any healthcare product, its purpose is to improve the well-being, comfort, and quality of life of the user. However, given human pride, social situations, and a fear of losing independence, many elders are reluctant to admit their mobility is decreasing. It’s often a struggle to obtain what the industry calls “compliance.” Many a well-meaning adult child finds that the brand-new walker he just bought his mother is sitting in the corner of the dining room—untouched. Give it time and ask a professional to help the elder understand the benefits of a mobility aid and how to use it.
How Can You Help?
As a caregiver, concerned relative, or friend, you can help in several ways. First, a caregiver can aid in fall prevention by reducing hazards in the home. Offer your support by encouraging your elder to increase activity to improve strength, balance, and stamina. Gentle exercise will also help to improve bones and muscles and help prevent fractures. Next, get out and have fun with your elder! You can also help by finding information and facilitating the purchase or rental of appropriate mobility aids for your elder.
Finally, it is important to report to the family physician any recurring incidents or risks pertaining to loss of balance. Remember, there is no reason for anyone to sacrifice mobility to aging.
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