How many of us dread a phone call like that? Or worse yet, live in fear of experiencing that fall ourselves?
The numbers tell the scary truth: one in four adults over age 65 fall each year and the risk of falling rises with age, according to the National Institute on Aging. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall and every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall (from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
There are several components to a comprehensive fall prevention effort that all of us should carry out for our own benefit, as well as for our aging parents or grandparents.
- Changes in vision, especially at night or in dark settings
- Medication interactions or side-effects that cause dizziness
- Footwear that is inappropriate or unsafe
- Environmental factors including tripping hazards, poor lighting or lack of grab bars/railings
- Leg strength and balance deficits
Let’s focus on what you can do now to improve your leg strength and balance. An individualized program-under the direction of a physical therapist or physician is ideal. Below are some tips on how to get started today.
How can you improve a declining sense of balance?
Our sense of balance starts to decline with age, limiting how adventurous we feel about moving. A safe and effective approach to improve your balance is to work through a progression of challenges based on your ability.
- The first challenge is standing with your feet together in a corner of your house, protected by the walls on either side and by a sturdy straight chair or walker in front of you.
- If this position is easy for you, try closing your eyes.
- Aim to stand there for a minute, using the walls and chair to keep you from falling.
Next, try this simple, yet functional exercise to improve your leg strength. Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair (with arms, if you need them to assist you in standing). Place your feet shoulder width apart. Lean forward and rise to standing using your arms as little as possible. Then, slowly return to a seated position, again using your arms as little as possible, and controlling your descent so that you don’t “plop” into the chair. Repeat this 10 to 20 times.
The last exercise, called a bridge, is aimed at strengthening your gluteal muscles and your hamstrings. Lie on a bed or couch and bend your knees, placing your feet flat on the surface. Squeeze your buttocks and tummy muscles, and lift your bottom off the surface, trying not to hold your breath. Hold in the bridge position for five seconds and then slowly lower back down to the surface. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
These exercise ideas are just the beginning of a comprehensive strength and balance program, but they are a solid start to making you stronger and decreasing your risk of falling. If you, or a loved one, have a fear of falling, consult with your physician and ask for a referral to physical therapy to address balance and strength concerns.
If you have concerns about falling, contact Ridgeview Rehab Specialties at 952-442-7850. We are the specialists you've been looking for.
Sign up soon for a fall prevention class for seniors led by Katie Trent, PT, Ridgeview Sibley Medical Center. This seven-week class runs from Sept. 12 to Oct. 24, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Gaylord City Library, (Community Room), 428 Main Avenue, Gaylord, MN. For more information or to register, click on the image below: