Balance Series Part 2: Assessing your Risk, Next Steps
Part one of our balance series provided some simple reminders and tips to keep in mind when travelling on potentially dangerous surfaces in winter conditions. This week we are looking into addressing your risk of falling and some basic ways to decrease this risk overall. This can involve working with a physical therapist and by ‘balance proofing’ your home.
Assessing your Risk
If you find yourself worrying about potentially falling, it is important to assess your current health standing and address the reasons you think you may be at risk. Consulting a skilled therapist is essential for an accurate balance assessment, as there are many tests that can be performed to pin point what balance deficits you may have.
Factors that may affect your balance are numerous and can include:
-Hearing- whether it’s a hard of hearing issue, or an inner ear issue, both can be factors in your balance
-Vision- poor or decreased vision can contribute to falls
-Nervous system- our sensation in our feet/legs is important because if you can’t feel what you are walking on, your muscles are not getting good input from their environment which can decrease stability.
One quick and easy assessment you can take is to determine whether you consistently find yourself ‘furniture walking’. As the name implies, this means you are continually relying on surrounding furniture or other structures to help keep you steady in walking. If this is the case, it may be time to consider using a walking device. To determine an appropriate course of action for your next steps, it is helpful to consult with a professional.
Steps to Improve
Strength and balance exercise-
-When it comes to muscles, the phrase “if you don’t use it you lose it” holds some truth- loss of muscle due to inactivity is referred to as atrophy. To prevent this atrophy, you can keep your muscles active with some resistance and strength exercises. Even if you are not a member of a gym, you can start with some simple exercises right at home. Quick exercises at home are a fun way to get your whole family active with you as well. We would be happy to work with you at The Atrium to help teach you some exercises you can practice at your convenience.
Balance proof your home-
In addition to working on a specialized balance program with a professional, you can take some simple steps around your home to make life easier so you can alleviate some of the worry associated with falling. An easy starting point is begin reorganizing. By removing clutter and rearranging, you can give yourself more open space to maneuver throughout your home. This is especially helpful if you are using a device to assist you in walking. Additionally, make sure you keep items you use often on lower shelves; when you have to reach for items, consider using a reaching device rather than climbing on step stools and bending. An extra step in balance proofing your home can involve remodeling areas such as your bathroom. This could involve insuring you have easy access to your shower and utilizing grab bars, tub benches, raised toilet seats, or other utilities.
This article is provided by Heather Mack, PT, DTP, PCS, Clinical Manager at The Atrium. If you have any questions related to this article or would like to learn about the therapy and wellness programs offered at the Atrium, please call 814-535-5347 extension 4421.