Today’s seniors have a lot to worry about, from their health to the health of their loved ones to what’s happening in the world.
One common and valid concern that many share is a fear of falling, an action that can lead to injury, even death in some cases. A fall that causes a significant injury like a broken hip or brain damage/head trauma can potentially cause significant changes to someone’s life, and the fear of falling can also limit people’s activities too. Falling can also lead to doctor visits and appointments with a physical therapist.
The team at Accredited Home Care is happy to share what they’ve learned about falling risks and ways to reduce the possibility of it. If it can help a client, they also are able to arrange a visit from a massage therapist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, or all of the above. It could be a one-time service or something that’s regularly scheduled.
While falls might seem minor and seem like nothing more than small stumbles, they actually have been designated a global public health risk by the World Health Organization. Falls are considered the second highest source of unintentional deaths, right after traffic collisions.
Each year, more than 684,000 people die from falls, and as many as 37.3 million people who fall require medical attention.
Every age group could potentially injure themselves in a fall, but the WHO said the risk increases dramatically for people aged 60 or over. They may no longer have good balance, coordination, or the flexibility to avoid a serious fall, so they could receive more severe damage as a result.
Each type of therapist can offer different ways to help the client, everything from reducing their pain and inflammation to helping them gain new abilities or recover abilities that might have been lost or reduced due to a medical condition or trauma.
Physical therapy is especially useful since a skilled physical therapist can include many different methods to aid clients, including being able to help them recover lost mobility and teach them different ways to move their muscles. Regular planned movement can improve strength and flexibility which can reduce fall risk.
One approach that many physical therapists focus on is called balance training. According to WebMD, the goal of balance training is to perform a series of exercises in certain muscle areas that can make them stronger. The targeted areas are usually designed to help someone stay upright, so affected muscles can include core areas and legs.
Focusing on these areas not only helps people stay upright better but make them more stable, which can cut down on the risk of falls.
Many of the types of exercises involved in balance training consist of various stretches or positions where the goal is for the body to either remain stable or force itself to stabilize itself. If you’re familiar with the practice of yoga, some of the poses are similar, such as standing on one leg so your body compensates and tries to balance itself or adjust itself. Even taking time to rock back and forth for an extended period of time can be valuable.
Balance training can also involve other tools to reduce stress levels such as using a balance board or a stability ball.
People receiving balance training are sometimes encouraged to do other tasks rather than only focusing on the training. For instance, music or TV programs can be nicely distracting rather than focusing on the exercises themselves.
Beyond exercise, good balance training can include looking at areas in your home where falls can occur, including practicing on areas that are flat, stable, and not slippery.
Live Science said these types of exercises can also help with healing from past injuries. These concentrated efforts can stabilize areas that have been weakened or damaged in the past, such as joints.
A physical therapist will be able to make recommendations on how often balance training should take – some experts recommend daily but others say three to six sessions a week, which can include a variety of different exercises. As with any exercise program, it might take a month or more of regular sessions to begin to see results.
Along with the prescribed exercises, seniors are also encouraged to get involved in other activities that can move the body and keep things flexible, such as regular walks or tai chi, or yoga. These can all help with overall balance too. If you are still concerned about falls, however, look for places that are relatively flat, and have a spotter/buddy with you in case there is a problem. Aids like canes may also help.
There are some interesting options available for people who want to boost their balance. There are also other resources available during Balance Awareness Week, which runs Sept. 12-18 this year.