If your elderly loved one gets dizzy or lightheaded and needs support to get around, they could be one of the millions of older adults dealing with balance issues.
Let’s explore why balance is so important for seniors, and what family caregivers can do when their loved one needs a helping hand.
Balance Problems and Disorders Among the Elderly
As the National Institute on Aging (NIA) explains, balance problems “are among the most common reasons that older adults seek help from a doctor.” According to reports, nearly eight million adults in the United States report balance disorders each year, including about one-third of adults over 65.
While these issues may seem minor, balance is an important piece of your overall health, particularly for older adults. Good balance empowers you to control and maintain your body, allowing you to move about freely and confidently. As the NIA puts it, good balance “is important to help you get around, stay independent, and carry out daily activities.”
On the flip side, experiencing balance issues can put a damper on your ability to complete routine activities of daily living, which can impact your quality of life and overall happiness. Balance issues can also lead to falls, which can be debilitating for older adults. Finally, dizziness, lightheadedness, and other changes to your sense of balance can sometimes be a sign of serious underlying health problems, which should be addressed by a medical professional.
Symptoms of Balance Issues in Seniors
Common symptoms of balance disorders include:
- Feeling dizzy or experiencing a spinning sensation (commonly called vertigo)
- Falling, or having the feeling that you are about to fall
- Staggering or teetering when standing or walking
- Lightheadedness or faintness
- Floating sensation
- Blurred vision
- Confusion or disorientation
- Intense feelings of panic or anxiety
- Nausea or vomiting
What Causes Balance Issues in Older Adults?
Problems with balance can come from any number of underlying causes, including inner ear problems, allergies or infections, or problems with the nerves in your legs and feet.
Importantly, issues with your heart and circulatory system can also contribute to balance disorders. Dizziness and other balance problems can be a warning sign of a stroke. Older adults who experience low blood pressure or hypertension may also have some difficulty with keeping their balance, usually due to the resulting dizziness or lightheadedness.
Many common medications can also cause dizziness or loss of balance as a side effect. If you suspect that this may be a factor, It’s important to work with your elderly loved one’s doctor or pharmacist to see if there are alternative medications available, if their dosage can be reduced, or if there are any other safe ways to minimize unwanted or dangerous side effects.
How to Help Seniors With Balance Issues
As a loving son or daughter to an aging adult, it can be scary to watch as your older loved one loses their sense of balance or struggles with dizziness and lightheadedness. We know it can also be sad to watch your loved one give up on activities they once enjoyed, or start to dread simple everyday acts like getting out of bed or moving from room to room.
Fortunately, there are many ways that you can help older adults dealing with balance issues to live safely and independently in the comfort of home. Here are some important ideas for older adults and caregivers to keep in mind:
Get Help From a Medical Professional
It’s important to work with your loved one’s healthcare team to evaluate and identify what the source of their balance issues may be, and if there are any steps that can be taken to treat these underlying causes. For example, your loved one’s doctor may be able to help identify if the balance issues are caused by one or more medications they may be taking, or indicate if the balance problems may be a sign of a larger health issue such as MS, diabetes, or problems with their blood pressure.
Similarly, doctors may be able to recommend physical therapy or exercise as a course of action, in certain cases. As the NIA explains:
“Some exercises help make up for a balance disorder by moving the head and body in certain ways. The exercises are developed especially for a patient by a professional (often a physical therapist) who understands the balance system and its relationship with other systems in the body.”
Look Into Personal Assistive Devices and Home Modifications
As the NIA puts it, “some people with a balance disorder may not be able to fully relieve their dizziness and will need to find ways to cope with it.” This may include helping to equip your loved one with durable medical equipment, such as a cane, walker, or wheelchair. It may also prove important to make safety modifications around your loved one’s home, such as getting rid of tripping hazards and obstacles, installing senior-friendly lighting, adding handrails, widening doorways, or replacing staircases with gentle ramps. Finally, look into non-slip footwear, and help make sure your loved one is always dressed appropriately for the weather when they go outdoors.
Looking for more information? You can find our guide to getting medical supplies and equipment for an elderly loved one here. For more insights on safe home modifications for the elderly, please click here.
Help Seniors Live a Healthy, Active Lifestyle
In some cases, making small lifestyle changes can help older adults manage the difficult effects of balance issues — and provide the confidence and peace of mind they need to continue living an active and independent lifestyle.
For example, if a doctor determines that the senior’s balance issues are caused by low blood pressure or high blood pressure, they may recommend adopting healthy habits such as cutting back on alcohol, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating a more nutrient-dense diet. A healthcare provider may also be able to offer your elderly loved one important guidelines for how to sit and stand properly in order to protect their posture and improve their overall mobility.
Bring In a Helping Hand Around the House
If your loved one needs a little bit of help completing activities of daily living, companion care may be the answer. Also called non-medical home care or in-home care, this type of long-term care is designed to give seniors the support they need to live a more active and independent life from the comfort and safety of home.
Available on a full- or part-time basis, a professional senior companion can provide the attentive, day-to-day support your aging loved one needs to thrive — such as lending a supportive arm when walking or completing ADLs, providing assistance with housework, offering reliable driving services, and discreetly assisting with grooming, dressing, and hygiene.
Want to learn more? Check out our guide to the health and safety benefits of in-home care — as well as the remarkable ways that companion care can give relief to busy family caregivers.
How Companions for Seniors Can Help
When an older adult is dealing with balance issues or another ongoing health condition, it’s important to get them the support and assistance they need to live a full, complete, and independent life.
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors maintain a higher quality of life by assisting them in leading an active and enriched lifestyle at home. Our aim is to empower seniors to live each day to the fullest by connecting them with their community and nurturing meaningful relationships.
We offer a wide variety of full- and part-time services to adults in the Chicago area, including:
- Providing assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Helping with bathing, grooming, using the restroom, and other tasks
- Offering driving services for doctor’s appointments, errands, and social events
- Assisting with laundry, cooking, cleaning, and other important household chores
- Providing medication and exercise reminders
- Offering friendly companionship and social connection
We can provide a free in-home assessment for your loved one, to help develop a personalized care plan specifically suited to their needs. As the senior’s needs develop over time, so can our plan of care. In most cases we can be up and running in just two days, sparing you from the laborious application process and paperwork attached to most assisted living facilities.
Curious about what sets Companions for Seniors apart? Want to talk over any aspect of home care? We’re here whenever you’re ready to keep the conversation going. Get in touch online or give us a call at 866-910-9020 today to get started.