By: Dr. Beth Templin
Many people are fearful of having a fall as they age. Did you know there are warning signs you can look for that let you know your balance isn't as good as it used to be? The following signs are slow changes that happen over time and can lead to someone losing their balance and not being able to successfully catch themselves.
Furniture Walking. Furniture walking refers to the act of using furniture, walls, and anything else to help balance while walking through your house. You always have something nearby to hold onto "just in case".
This happens when people start to lose confidence in their ability to walk safely by themselves. When you get to this point, you may benefit from using a cane or walker. Some are resistant to using an assistive device because they don't want to be seen as "old". This mentality will put you at an increased risk for having a fall.
Trouble stepping into the tub. This happens when you start to lose the ability to stand on one leg, while lifting the opposite leg up and over into the tub. Some people will make changes to their bathroom set up, including adding grab bars or updating to a walk-in shower. While those changes are helpful, they don't improve the underling loss of balance you are beginning to experience.
Nervous to step up or off of a curb. This begins to happen when you have decreased confidence with standing on one leg while stepping up with the other, similar to stepping into the tub. This problem is usually due to weakness in the legs that can happen gradually over time because of decreased activity. Unlike your bathroom, you can't always modify the environment to make it easier for you to go up and down the curb.
Anxious about walking on grass or gravel. I hear all the time how people don't feel comfortable walking out in the yard, or walking on a gravel path or on mulch. This happens as your feet and ankles become stiff and weak. We rely heavily on our feet to give us accurate information about the type of surface we are standing on: inclines, declines, uneven, firm surfaces. We use this information to make adjustments to stay upright. When the feet and ankles become stiff and weak, we lose the ability to do this effectively.
Unsteady washing your hair in the shower. When you wash your hair, there are several things that are needed in order to feel balanced. The first is the ability to stay steady when you raise your arms above your shoulders to wash your hair. The second is that you need to feel confident when you close your eyes to wet and wash out your hair. Lastly, let's not forget the shower can be a wet, slippery place - contributing to a higher risk of having a fall.
All of the above activities are normal daily tasks. Once you start to lose your confidence in any of these areas, it's a red flag that you are experiencing some declines in your balance. These changes are not a normal part of the aging process. The good news is there are many activities you can do to help you improve your leg strength, the flexibility of your ankles and your balance with your eyes closed.
❤ Dr. Beth
Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.