One in seven adults regularly experiences imbalance or dizziness, which becomes more common with increased age. Good balance is necessary for good health, because it prevents us from injuries we could suffer if we fall. Following prevention strategies and seeking medical help when needed can help balance-challenged seniors stay safe, walk on their own and perform day-to-day activities.
What does it mean to have good balance? The National Institute on Aging (NIA) says it’s the ability “to control and maintain your body’s position, whether you are moving or remaining still.” According to the NIA, a healthy sense of balance helps seniors:
- Walk without staggering.
- Rise from a chair without falling.
- Go upstairs without tripping.
- Bend over without falling.
Causes of balance problems
With more than 33 million Americans dealing with balance problems over a year’s time, it’s a major safety concern, particularly during senior living, when falls can be especially dangerous. Just over a third of adults ages 65 and older fall each year, and falls are the top cause of injury-related deaths among seniors.
Balance issues are generally caused by disorders or infections in the labyrinth, the part of the inner ear that controls balance. As an affected labyrinth interacts with other body parts, including eyes, bones and joints, it can bring on the dizzy sensation known as vertigo. Occasions of imbalance can be brief or lengthy, in which case they can disrupt people’s daily lives.
Tips to control balance
If you’re routinely challenged by imbalance, here are a few safety tips to follow:
- Don’t use throw rugs. Non-skid mats are better.
- Use a cane or railings when they’re available.
- Install support bars in the tub or shower and near the toilet.
- Use night lights in your bedroom, hallway and bathroom.
- Store household items on low shelves.
- Keep hallways and driveways free of clutter.
If you or a loved one sometimes feels unsteady, dizzy or lightheaded, see your physician for a diagnosis and treatment. It’s possible your doctor will refer you to an otolaryngologist, a physician who treats problems of the ear, nose, throat, head and neck.
Preventing falls at Country Meadows
Country Meadows Retirement Communities has initiated a falls prevention initiative to reduce falls by 10 percent at each campus. A team of staff in therapy services, fitness, safety and nursing asks employees to report changes in residents, such as confusion or difficulty with standing or walking. The team may recommend an assessment to evaluate a resident for risk and treatment—perhaps a change in medication, muscle-strengthening therapy, exercise or adaptive devices.
Improving “sit-to-stand” skills is a priority. “When seniors are confident in their ability to make that transition from sitting to standing, they are more likely to participate in everything from bus trips to movies and even exercise classes,” says Kim Eichinger, executive director of fitness at Country Meadows.
The staff at Country Meadows takes pride in working with our residents to help them stay safe, fit and active. If you’re looking for a health-centered, active senior living community near you, we invite you to contact us. We would be glad to have you visit any of our 10 Pennsylvania retirement homes or our Frederick, Maryland retirement community. We offer several senior lifestyle options, including independent living communities, assisted living or personal care homes, and memory support neighborhoods.