Balance and Falls Part II - “What can I do?”
Updated: Jul 25, 2021
In Balance and Falls Part I, I covered why aging adults may have balance problems and how serious a problem falls are in America. Now I want to discuss what you can do about your balance problems and when you may need to seek expert opinion.
Balance is a complex system made up of three main parts discussed in Part I, but several other factors can affect your balance, such as muscle weakness, reduced flexibility, decreased cognition, medications, fear of falling, arthritis, and pain. So, depending on what is causing the balance deficiency, there are certain things you can do to either adapt to the deficiency or improve the deficiency. For example, if you have difficulty rising from your favorite chair due to leg weakness, you would benefit from strengthening your lower body. Now, usually, it is not that simple, and there are several deficiencies causing the balance problem; this is because the body is good at compensating for deficiencies.
When should you speak to your doctor or contact a physical therapist? It is always better to be proactive, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. However, if you or someone you know has had a fall in the past year, it is probably a good idea to get evaluated as soon as possible. It is worth repeating that one in four adults 65 or older has a fall every year, 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by a fall, and one in five falls cause a serious injury, including traumatic brain injury. If you or someone you know needs the use of an assisted device such as a walker or cane, you notice you are avoiding certain activities because you don’t feel safe, or if you sometimes feel dizzy or just off-balance, it is a good time to get evaluated.
In conclusion, the main goal is for you or your loved one to stay as independent as possible. Falls are the leading cause of hospitalizations and fatal injury for adults 65 and older and can lead to decreased mobility and a loss of independence. Speaking with your doctor and getting evaluated by a physical therapist with training in balance disorders can have a profound effect on your balance, strength, and mobility, allowing you or your loved one to stay as independent as possible.