Maintaining Balance to Prevent Falls
As seniors age, the risk for falls increases. In an article from the National Council On Aging (NCOA) website, it states that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one fourth of Americans aged 65 and older suffer from a fall. This report also states that falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and also the most common cause of nonfatal hospital admissions. As falls among seniors result in 800,000 hospitalizations and often more than 27,000 deaths, it’s important that we find ways to prevent falls from occurring.
According to Edward Toy, Director of Sales and Marketing at Lions Gate, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Voorhees, New Jersey, one of the best ways to prevent yourself or a loved one from falling is to ensure that balance is maintained over time. “Maintaining balance is essential to being able to control your movements in a safe manner,” says Ed. “If a loved one’s balance is not maintained, they may have trouble walking, getting up from a seated position, going up or down the stairs or they may even be unable to bend over without falling. This can become dangerous because of the risk of fractures of the hip, pelvis or spine.” Ed adds that “by trying to catch themselves from a fall, seniors are also prone to fracturing their arms and hands, and if they are unsuccessful in catching themselves before they hit the ground, they could suffer from a head injury. These problems not only cause long hospital stays, but they also cause seniors to be unable to complete their daily tasks, which drastically affects their everyday lives.”
While not every fall is major and does not always result in a fracture or head injury, it can still impact a loved one in a number of ways. Your loved one can become embarrassed as a result of the visible minor cuts and bruises. This can cause them to feel as though everyone knows they are falling more often and can make them feel judged or self-conscious. The more that seniors lose their balance and fall, the more likely your loved one will begin to fear falling, which can begin to make them “limit their activities and social engagements,” according to the NCOA article. When seniors begin to fear falling, they may begin to avoid doing daily tasks and activities they once loved, which “can result in further physical decline, depression, social isolation and feelings of helplessness.”
While your loved one may feel helpless and as though there is nothing they can do because they neglected their physical health for so long, the opposite is actually true. By doing some gentle exercises, seniors are able to better maintain their coordination, which could potentially decrease their risk of falling if they do become unsteady.
EXERCISES THAT CAN HELP SENIORS MAINTAIN THEIR BALANCE
To improve balance, try doing some of the following balance exercises from the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) Senior Health website with your loved one. Always be sure to remain close to your loved one in the event they lose their balance so as to prevent injury from occurring.
- Balancing on one foot. Holding onto something or someone, stand on one foot and hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat this 10 to 15 times with each of your legs. As time goes on and balance improves, try holding onto the chair with one hand or just keeping it close by in case of unsteadiness.
- Walking the tight rope. Just like walking on a balance beam, put one heel in front of your toes to the point they are almost touching. Take a step, putting your foot that is behind in front of your toes. Choose a spot to walk to while maintaining your balance. The NIH recommends repeating this for about 20 steps.
- Flamingo walk. In this exercise, raise your arms to your sides at about shoulder height. Lift your leg, almost like you are a flamingo, as you walk. Pause for a second before continuing and repeat for 20 steps while alternating legs.
- Back leg raises. Begin by standing behind a chair that can be held for balance. Breathe in and out slowly while lifting one leg back without bending your knee or pointing your toes. Keep your back completely straight and your leg that you are standing on slightly bent. Hold this pose and breathe in as you lower your leg. Repeat this 10 to 15 times with one leg and then 10 to 15 times with the other.
- Side leg raises. This exercise is also done while holding onto a chair for support as it is much like the back leg raises. Begin by lifting one leg out towards the side with your back straight and your toes forward. Hold this for one second and then breathe out as you lower your leg. Repeat this 10 to 15 times and then continue to repeat this with the other leg for 10 to 15 times.
For videos of how to perform these exercises, click here. If these exercises get easier over time, adapt them in subtle ways or talk to your doctor about more balance exercises that you can do. Remember that seniors should not begin a strenuous routine without talking to a doctor first.
WHERE TO TURN TO AFTER A FALL
If your loved one experiences a fall and needs short-term rehabilitation, trust Lions Gate’s STARR (Short-Term Advanced Rehabilitation & Recovery) program to deliver the care your loved one needs to get back on their feet in no time. Our physical therapy program helps those who have suffered from a fall to increase their mobility upon discharge from our program and provides them with the therapy they need to improve their balance and prevent another fall. Give us a call at (856) 782-1200 or request more information today!
EXPERIENCE LIFESTYLE, CARE, COMMUNITY AND TRADITION AT LIONS GATE
Lions Gate, located in Voorhees, NJ, offers a continuum of lifestyle and care options rooted in Jewish traditions and values. Whether you are in need of Independent Living,Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing or Rehabilitation Services, Lions Gate has you covered.
Our mission at Lions Gate is to enrich the lives of those we serve through quality and compassionate care consistent with our heritage and values. We strive to provide programs and services that inspire well-being, as well as social, cultural and spiritual independence.
As a full-service community rich in wellness programs, meaningful experiences and educational opportunities from Lions Gate University, Lions Gate allows residents to connect with those who share their interests and cherished traditions. Our goal is to provide residents with an active, worry-free lifestyle filled with ways to connect with others, pursue their passions and be engaged in everyday life. While we focus on Jewish customs and traditions, we welcome people of all faiths to the Lions Gate family.
Through our affiliation with Jewish Senior Housing and Healthcare Service, we also offer three senior living communities for those with limited incomes.