Having good balance means you’re able to control and maintain your body’s position, whether you’re in motion or remaining still. Learning about the causes of balance problems can help you prevent falls and a loss of independence. Possible causes of balance issues include:
- inner ear problems
- visual issues
- physical weakness
- low blood pressure
The most effective intervention to improve balance and prevent falls is a customized program for you and may include:
- balance training including the Balance Master
- exercises to be done at home.
Each year, thousands of older Americans fall at home. Many are seriously injured, and some are disabled. In 2008, over 19,700 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries. By making some changes, you can lower your chance of falling.
Four things you can do now to prevent falls:
1. Being a regular exercise program to lower your chance of falling.
- Lack of exercise leads to weakness and increases your chances of falling.
- Exercises that improve balance and coordination (like Tai Chi) are the most helpful.
- Talk to your doctor or health care provider about what exercise is right for you.
2. Have your health care provider review your medicines, including over the counter mediations.
- As you get older the way medicines work in your body can change.
- Be aware that some medications may increase the risk of falling (blood pressure pills, heart medicines, diuretics or water pills, muscle relaxers or tranquilizers.)
- Taking four or more medications could also pout you at higher risk for falling.
3. Have your vision checked yearly. Subtle changes may increase your risk for falls. You may notice:
- Changes in the ability to detect and discriminate objects.
- A decline in depth perceptions.
- A decrease in the ability to recover from a sudden bright light or glare.
4. Make your home a safer place. About half of falls happen at home.
- Get up slowly after you sit or lie down.
- Keep emergency numbers in large print near each phone.
- Carry a portable phone with you from room to room or purchase a Lifeline alarm.
- West supportive, low heeled shoes, even at home. Avoid walking around in socks, stockings or floppy, backless slippers.
- Keep pathways clear from furniture and clutter. Coil or tape cords and wires next to the wall.
- Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep them from slipping.
- Keep stairways in good repair: make sure carpet is firmly attached to every step. Attach non-slip rubber threads on stairs if not carpeted. Place flourescent tape on the top front edge of all steps so you can see the stairs better and fix loose handrails.
- Maintain a well lit-home with adequate lighting in stairways, halls, entrances and outside steps and by placing night lights in bathrooms, halls and pathways.
- Avoid using step stools. Keep items used often within easy reach (about waist high) in cabinets.
- Install grab bars next to your toilet and in the tub or shower, use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors and use an elevated toilet seat and/or shower stool
- Use a cane or assistive device for extra stability of recommended by your physician or therapist.
- Be aware of hazards outside your home including uneven walkway, poor lighting, gravel or debris on sidewalks and hazardous materials like snow, ice, water, oil.