When I went to the Wahiawa Senior fair I meet Physical Therapist Tate from Wahiawa general Hospital. They asked me if I wanted to do a balance test which would assess how good or bad my balance is for my age. Thank God I passed the test. Staggering amount of seniors are treated in emergency situations due to falls every year. Some of these injuries are due to issues with balance as people become older. What ever the case awareness can keep seniors stay safe from falls and serious injury.
Anyone can test themselves by timing how long they can stand on one leg with eyes open. Single Leg Balance Test normal values with eyes open:
Ages 18-39= 44seconds
Ages 40-49= 42 seconds
Ages 50-59=41 seconds
Ages 60-69 = 32 seconds
Ages 70-79=21 seconds
Ages 80+= 9 seconds
Balance is important especially in older age to prevent the risk of falling and getting injured. An article by cdc.gov claims that each year 2.5 million people who are older in age are cared for in emergency rooms due to falls. Falls among the elderly usually lead to traumatic brain injury or hip fractures. Besides poor balance falls can often be related to problems with dizziness. The various types of dizziness are vertigo, syncope, nonsyncope, and nonvertigo. Dizziness caused by vertigo can make a person feel like they are spinning. Dizziness caused by syncope can make a person feel faint and they may experience sweating and dimmed vision.
Dizziness can also occur when the eyes, body senses and inner ear is affected. Since these three organs help the brain to maintain balance in the body, it is no wonder that dizziness occurs when an individual has allergies, a cold, or ear infection. If you or someone you know is elderly and may have problems with balance or is at risk for fall encourage them to see their PCP and get a balance assessement.
5 ways to keep seniors safe from falls:
1) keep walk ways clear
2) Discuss any medications with PCP that may cause dizziness
3)Establish a weekly exercise routine to maintain strong muscles in legs and arms so that seniors can continue to be ambulatory
4)Make sure that a senior has the proper assistive walking device to help them navigate in their home and community
5)Monitor any changes in blood pressure, dizziness seems to be related to low blood pressure in seniors
In some cases falls can be fatal. I once worked with an elderly woman with Dementia who lived alone. She has a son that visited her on occasion. One day her son and his wife came to visit the woman. He knocked on the door and he heard his mother say “I’m coming” a few minutes later he knocked again and again she said “I’m coming”. After almost 1 hour the woman did not come to the door. Her son became worried and called for help. When emergency services opened the door the woman was laying on the floor in her own feces and urine. The woman was unable to get up on her own and on one knew how long she was on the floor. It appeared that she may have fell and injured herself but because of her dementia she was unable to explain what happen and how long she was in the situation by herself. After rehabilitation her son found a residential care home where she is safe and well taken care of 24/7.