Older adults and anyone with balance issues or at risk of falling can take a variety of steps to improve their physical health and wellbeing to stay active and prevent falls. The tips and strategies below can help prevent falls and advise you on what to do in the event you have fallen.
Improving Balance with Exercise
Exercise can be one of the most effective ways to improve your balance. Any simple movement that develops strength in the lower limbs may be worthwhile. Beyond losing weight, exercise can also help enhance joint flexibility, develop muscle and improve coordination.
Before starting, be sure to speak with your physician, a physical therapist, or a trainer at a gym to advise you on what particular techniques to focus on.
Some exercises to improve balance include:
Yoga or tai chi
Brisk walking or running
Swimming or other aquatic exercises
Staying Mobile with Assistive Devices
There are also a number of assistive devices and mobility aids individuals can use to maintain balance and reduce the risk of a fall. Canes and walkers are the most common, and can help people navigate rough or uneven terrain. They may also be needed if you need to keep your body weight off your feet, ankles or knees.
A cane, walker or rollator
Non-skid, rubber-soled shoes
A wheelchair or motorized scooter
If you're advised to use an assistive device, speak with a physical or occupational therapist to help you decide which device is most helpful and how to safely use it.
Your doctor can also play an instrumental role in helping you improve your balance and reduce the risk of a fall. An appointment with your doctor is often the first step in taking a serious approach to mitigating fall risks and improving your health and wellbeing.
Both hearing and sight should be evaluated annually and prescriptions should be updated. Glaucoma, cataracts and other eye conditions also affect balance and must be monitored accordingly.
During your visit with your doctor or pharmacist, speak with them about any prescription drugs that cause dizziness or drowsiness. Many drugs can also cause low blood pressure, which may make you feel dizzy.
Preventative Measures at Home
It's important to identify any safety hazards at home and make the changes or modifications required to prevent falls.
To make your home safer, you can:
Use nonslip mats in the bathtub or shower, or a bath seat.
Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting.
Eliminate throw rugs or secure them with slip-resistant backing.
Move tables, racks, plants and other objects away from commonly-used areas.
Keep electrical and phone cords away from walkways and make clear paths to light switches.
If you do fall, here are some steps to keep in mind:
Take a few deep breaths to relax. Remain still to get over the shock of falling.
Decide if you are hurt before you get up.
If you can get up safely without help, slowly get up on your hands and knees and crawl to a sturdy piece of furniture.
Put your hands on the furniture and slide your feet into a kneeling position.
From this position, slowly rise and push up.
If you are hurt and cannot get up, ask someone for help or call 911. Carrying a mobile phone can make it easier to call someone if you need assistance. At a later time, inform your doctor that you fell so they can address any physical concerns.