Balance And Fall Prevention

Balance and Fall Prevention

Taking proactive measures helps older adults remain independent.

If you or a loved one have a decreased ability to balance, difficulty getting up from a seated position, or decreased activity due to fear of falling, our therapists can help. Taking proactive measures helps older adults remain independent and reduce their chances of injury. Our individualized, multi-dimensional exercise programs yield significant improvements in balance measure, mobility measures, and decreased fall risk.

Falls are the leading cause of death due to injury in people over the age of 65 and result in more than 300,000 hip fractures every year.  Falls also cause head injuries and fractures to other areas of the body. Falls can be caused by impaired hearing, vision or balance; chronic diseases that affect physical or mental function; and by specific medications or interaction between medications. Sedatives and anti-depressants are the most common medications to cause dizziness. Being afraid of having a fall makes it more likely you will fall again.  Moving to a new apartment or home increases the risk of falling. In addition to injury, falls can result in a loss of independence.  It is especially important for individuals that have osteoporosis to discuss their balance with their health care providers due to the high risk of bone fractures.

If you are having dizziness, speak with your primary care provider.  Think carefully about the symptoms you are experiencing.  There are several types of dizziness and being specific can help your provider determine possible causes of your symptoms.  Do you feel unstable or unbalanced? Are you light headed?  Do you have a spinning sensation or abnormal sensation of motion that is not spinning in nature?  Don’t let anyone tell you that dizziness or imbalance is a normal part of aging.  Individuals who have multiple risk factors are most likely to fall and there are many effective interventions for most types of dizziness.

Here are some strategies to decrease the risk of having a fall:

  • Don’t let clutter accumulate, especially on the floor.
  • Use a walking stick, cane or walker for improving stability.
  • Wear rubber soled, supportive shoes to improve traction, but avoid “sticky” rubber soles.
  • Walk on grass when sidewalks are slippery.
  • In winter, use kitty litter or salt to address icy sidewalks.
  • Be careful on slippery, polished floors such as marble.
  • Avoid walking in stocking feet or slippers.
  • Avoid using throw rugs. If you do have them, make sure they have skid proof backing or are tacked to the floor. Be sure carpets do not have wrinkles. Use a rubber bath mat in shower and /or tub.
  • Be sure all stairways have hand rails and bathrooms have grab bars (near your bathtub or shower and toilet).
  • Install and use good lighting in stairwells and on sidewalks outside your home. Turn on lights when you get up during the night and keep a flashlight with fresh batteries near your bed.
  • If you need to use a step stool, make sure it is wide, sturdy and has a hand rail.
  • Consider getting a cordless phone with multiple stations to make it easier to call for help if you do fall.
  • Never rush or hurry.
  • Be extra cautious around pets – they can sneak up behind you and cause you to trip.
  • If you wear glasses, clean them daily.