Many of us have aging parents, or even feel we are aging ourselves. Often a simple fall can alter your life, or a loved one’s life, forever. For example, breaking a hip at an elderly age can lead to less mobility, wheel chair usage, and a general lack of activity. It can also lead to fear of falling yet again.
As we age, it is imperative that we retain a sense of stability, a sense of fitness and confidence so that we can avoid or diminish falls, bone breaks, etc. There are many ways we can help our elders and ourselves stay a bit more balanced and stable in our daily lives.
Web MD has a wonderful article on the subject, below:
Within this article is a link that provides some excellent exercises and ideas for improving fitness and balance in older populations:
I do not think I need to reinvent the wheel by by posting more exercises here because the above article includes many great suggestions, some of which I have addressed in a previous blog.
The important thing is to encourage our parents (and ourselves) to get out and either get some Physical Therapy on the subject or go to local classes. Some great classes, for example, are Silver Sneakers (SS). You can typically get online and find out where these classes are being held. For example, they have SS classes at my local Gold’s Gym. This type of class is appropriate for all types of older folks who are in various stages of fitness. Some are just beginners. But it is a great opportunity to get out, be social, and feel good about yourself while getting fitness and balance exercises, in a controlled environment. SS classes can range in type from beginner to more advance. You can also find SS chair yoga classes, which are great for balance and stretching. Find a class near you by using the website below:
To find out more about SS classes visit the below site:
I do teach this format but there are probably other types of senior classes at your local community center, that are not SS classes, but are just as good. You might have to do some research on the topic for your parent, or assist them.
Depending on where they or you live, there may be similar classes offered in their own housing community. So be aware and encourage participation.
Being able to balance is key to preventing a devastating fall. According to Prevention.com:
“One in three adults over age 65 takes a serious tumble each year. Avoiding falls means a longer life: About 20% of women who fracture a hip become permanently disabled, and another 20% die within a year. In fact, health problems linked to hip fractures result in more women’s deaths each year than breast cancer does.”
Those are some frightening facts that must be addressed. Aside from the suggestions in the above articles, what are small things we can do at home to improve our balance? Prevention.com has a few good suggestions:
“Stand On One Leg: Try to do this while you are washing the dishes, suggests Laskowski. When you can hold the pose for 30 seconds on each side, stand on a less stable surface, such as a couch cushion; to increase the challenge even more, do it with your eyes closed.”
“Walk heel to toe: The same sobriety field test cops give drunk drivers also improves balance. Take 20 steps forward, heel to toe. Then walk backward, with toe to heel, in a straight line.”
“Do squats: Sturdy legs can help prevent a stumble from turning into a fall, says Comana. To build quads, start with a simple squat: With feet hip-width apart, bend knees and hips and slowly lower yourself as if sitting in a chair behind you. Keep arms straight out, abs tight, back straight, and knees above shoelaces. Stop when thighs are parallel to the floor (or as close as you can get), then contract glutes as you stand back up. Aim for 3 sets of 10, with a 1-minute break after each set.”
“Get a good night’s rest.
Sleep more than 7 hours a night. Sleep deprivation (here are 5 signs you’re sleep deprived) slows reaction time, and a study at California Pacific Medical Center shows that it’s also directly related to falls. Researchers tracked nearly 3,000 older women and found that those who typically slept between 5 and 7 hours each night were 40% more likely to fall than those who slept longer.”
Start with these suggestions, if you want more advanced work, go to your physician and get a prescription for Physical Therapy (PT) specifically for Balance Improvement to Prevent a Fall. I am certain you will get what you need. Ask for recommendations for PT locations that are near you/them to ensure you/they will actually carry through with the PT. They may need you to drive them or perhaps they can Uber, whatever works! The more independent we are, the more happy and confident we are within our lives.
All these strategies are good but what if you are dealing with someone who has already fallen? We need to understand why they fell in the first place. The following link is great:
There are a few keys points in the article I want to insert here:
“But if you really want to help an older loved one avoid falls, I recommend you learn to better understand why he or she, in particular, might fall.
Why? Because when you understanding the specific reasons an older person may be falling, you’ll then be able to:
- Identify which fall prevention strategies are most likely to help the person you worry about,
- Recognize risky situations, and take steps to avoid them,
- Know which medical conditions — and which medications — to ask your doctors to look into,
- Understand what may have caused a specific fall, which can help you avoid future falls.
In other words, learning why older people fall means that you’ll be able to figure out why YOUR older relative is likely to fall — and take steps to help them.”
“Why personalized fall prevention works better than general fall prevention
Once you understand the particular factors contributing to your older loved one’s risk, it will be easier to focus on the fall prevention strategies that are most relevant to your situation. In other words, you’ll be able to personalize your approach to fall prevention.
Personalizing fall prevention is critical. You don’t want your mom to start by spending a lot of time on tai chi, if her current major risk for falls might be that her blood pressure medications are too strong, or her eyesight is terrible.”
So there are many factors to take into account when addressing how to approach fall prevention for yourself or your loved one. For example, sometimes you just have to get rid of that rug that keeps tripping you up, or perhaps it is certain shoes that may not fit quite right. Whatever the case, it is imperative to narrow down and/or pinpoint the cause of the fall.
But what if you have “fallen but you can’t get up”? Well there are devices one can get for your parent or yourself that alert 911 when you have fallen and need assistance (e.g. Life Alert). But just having a cell phone on you (that is charged) at all times will allow you to call 911 or your loved one for immediate assistance. So these types of precautions should also be taken and employed with consistency.
Keep moving and stay positive (and avoid walking on ice)!
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin