We all know aging is a process that a person cannot avoid. It begins on the day of conception, continues all through life and ends with death. With growing age elderly individuals experience innumerable apathies. The metabolic activities decline, bones become porous and lose strength, person suffers from eye related illnesses etc. WHO has defined ‘elderly’ as people more than 65 years of age.
Balance problem is the most common problem in elderly age group. In fact it is one of the most common problems among this group to cause serious injuries.Imbalance and improper gait is common cause for fall in geriatric age group. It can lead to disability, injury, and compromises life quality. Balance problems are multifactorial in origin.
Balance problems can cause erratic foot placement, the trunk becomes instable, tremor, rigidity, urinary incontinence, vertigo, deafness, lightheadedness etc. Learning balance exercise, tai chi, and other physiotherapy exercise can reduce the risk of fall. It will also help to balance while walking.
What Causes Balance Problems In The Elderly?
Balancing problem issue is commonly encountered by elderly individuals. Because they are not able to balance their body properly while standing and walking and there is always risk of falling.Several factors may be responsible for improper balance. Most of them are chronic. Balancing depends on three senses; your eyes, spatial orientation, and vestibular system of the inner ear.
Spatial orientation is an inner feeling that indicated the direction of feet and hand even if your eyes are closed. The vestibular system of the inner ear consists of fluid filled canals which are lined with tiny hairs. The hairs and nerve inform the brain and eyes regarding the position of your head. With age the hairs become less. In fact all three senses diminish leading to balancing problem.
Balance problem can also arise from several other reasons in elderly. This may include alcohol intake. Most elderly aged take some medicines. Certain medicines also cause dizziness and imbalance. Person taking sleeping pills can be one of them. Balance problem also arises from diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can affect the peripheral nerves causing numbness in foot and leg. This may lead to reduced sensation in leg and problem in balancing.
Arthritis can cause stiffness and pain. Both the symptoms can lead to imperfect balance in elderly. Other causes such as lightheadedness, blurred vision due to retinal problem or cataract, buzzing, ringing in ears, stroke, multiple sclerosis, sudden drop in blood pressure (postural hypotension) Parkinson’s disease etc. all can cause unsteady gait and imbalance.
Alternative Remedies For Balance Problems In The Elderly
Most elderly having balance disorder have fear of falling. Because of this they reduce their activities. Unfortunately, reducing physical activity will lead to more problems rather than solving. It will increase the risk. To improve gait and balance in elderly, conservative treatment is useful. Physiotherapy exercises will help to strengthen the muscles, improve flexibility, and endurance. Together with physiotherapy exercises, certain environmental hazards also need to be corrected. Often falls caused by imbalance can be reduced.
Elderly individuals having balance problems must walk of even floor and avoid walking on uneven land space. He must avoid climbing defective staircase. He should avoid poor lighting area, must not sit on armless chair. They must not wear defective foot wear and use walking stick if they have imbalance and improper gait.
Certain targeted medical intervention can alleviate balance disorder to some extent in chronic diseases. For example balance problem resulting from arthritis can be dealt with medication. If the patient has arrhythmia, then anti arrhythmic medicines must be prescribed. He may also need pacemaker. Use of elastic stocking, increased salt intake will help in reducing the incidence of postural hypotension and balance problem resulting from it. Elderly suffering from Parkinson’s disease should continue taking anti parkinsonian medicine.