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How To Improve Balance In Elderly

Balance issues are exceptionally common in the elder. As you age, the sensations in your feet start to decline. In turn, this can reduce your ability to detect when you become out of balance.

The result is an increased risk in falls – which can cause fractures, a broken hip, bruises, and even serious disability. Every year, at least 25% of the US population older than 65 years’ experience a fall.

In fact, an elderly individual is treated for a fall in an emergency room setting almost six times every minute in the country.

The elderly should participate in physical activity in order to maintain a better balance. There are also several exercises that could help older people with existing balance problems experience a reduction in the risk of falling.

This is usually accomplished through physical activities that may improve the strength and stability of muscles, tendons, and joints.

We take a look at some of the best ways that older individuals can improve their balance.

Strategies for Improving balance In Senior citizens

There are multiple ways that the elderly can improve their balance and, in turn, reduce their risk of suffering a fall.

When it comes to determining an effective way of improving balance in seniors, it is crucial to consider the severity of their immobility. If there are any specific conditions that are causing the individual difficulty with balance, this needs to be addressed too. For more visit this page.

RELATED: How to increase mobility in older adults

Use mobility Aids

The use of mobility aids is one useful method for reducing the risk of falls in senior citizens. There are multiple options that can be used, including canes and crutches. These products help to provide support for the person while they are walking.

Right shoes

Wearing the right shoes is another important strategy for improving the balance of an older person. These shoes tend to provide a larger area at the toes and offer better support at targeted areas of the feet. In turn, they help the person remain in balance and can significantly reduce the risk of falling.

RELATED: Nonslip slippers for seniors

Exercises for Seniors to Improve balance

Apart from the strategies that we shared above, there are certain exercises that may help to improve the strength of muscles and joints in an older person’s body.

One concerning factor about elderly individuals participating in physical activities is that certain exercises could be too much for their bodies.

This could lead to potentially harmful effects – for example, certain activities could make symptoms associated with a hip fracture worse, even when surgical treatment was provided.

There are, however, some exercises that put less strain on the body, but can still yield improvements in the senior person’s ability to keep their balance when walking.

One of the best ways for the elderly to keep active and maintain appropriate muscle tone is to go for a brisk walk frequently. Walking is considered an aerobic activity that gets the heart pumping but also works on several muscle groups – particularly in the legs and feet.

These are important muscles when it comes to talking about balance. When there is a weakness in the muscles that are located in the legs and the feet, going off-balance while walking becomes a more serious problem.

Other exercises that seniors can do to help improve their balance include:

  • A single-limb stance, which is an activity that specifically focuses on balance. Here, the person would balance on a single leg for a short period of time, and then switch to the other leg. While it may seem like quite a simple activity, it is a great way for an older person to regain a sense of balance when they stand still and when they move around.
  • Heel to toe walking is another effective strategy that can be practiced when taking a simple walk. The exercise involves walking with one foot placed in front of the other during movement – in such a way that the toe touches the other foot’s heel.
  • Back leg raises are a perfect activity for improving muscle strength in the lower back. The activity also targets the upper legs. With this activity, the person would position themselves behind a chair and lift one of their legs backward. The position would then be held for some time, after which the leg is returned to the ground. The other leg should then be raised.
  • Similar to a back leg raise, a side leg raise is also an excellent activity for improving balance. With this, the person would also stand behind a chair. They would then lift their one leg to the side instead of backward, hold the position, and bring the leg back to the floor. The movement should be alternated between the two legs a couple of times each day.
  • Wall pushups can help to work on several muscles without causing the same strain that a normal pushup would impose on the body. There is also no need for special equipment with these exercises – the person would only need access to a wall. They need to start by standing against the wall and then lean slightly forward. The palms of the hands are then placed against the wall. The hands and arms should be used to push the body away from the wall, and then the body should be pushed back toward the wall.

RELATED: Guide to exercises for seniors

What’s next?

When you lose your balance as an elder individual, your risk of suffering an injury, such as a broken hip, becomes something to be concerned about.

In serious cases, this could lead to hospitalization, disability, and other complications. There are methods that can be utilized to improve balance in the elderly, however, as we outlined in this post.

I hope this post was helpful. If you want to continue reading I will outline some related topics. In case you have trouble with putting on socks, you should consider assistive device for dressing. Clipping toenails is difficult if you cant bent, check my tips to overcome this problem.

How to Get up from the Toilet?

As we get older many of us are less able to move around unaided. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s a common problem with getting old, and may just be a consequence of losing muscle mass. This, we can often help with regular exercise.

Unfortunately, if you have problems sitting and standing at the toilet, you need help now, not sometime in the future. So, let’s look at a few ways to help with this basic necessity.

Techniques to Help when sitting or standing from the Toilet

Believe it or not, you can learn the correct way to stand up and sit down at the toilet seat. This will make life so much easier when you answer a call of nature.

Likewise, you can also make use of many aids designed to help use this essential household fixture.

Standing

If you already have a frame or grab rails around your toilet, use them. If you haven’t got any, it’s worthwhile thinking about having some fitted.

RELATED: Best grab bars for seniors

Let’s assume you already have armrests you can use.

  • Place your hands firmly onto the frame or grab rails.
  • Lean forwards so you move toward the front edge of the toilet seat. You will probably have to shuffle on your buttocks, transferring your weight from one to the other and slightly lifting your body using your arms.
  • Place your feet about shoulder-width apart and make sure they’re in line under your knees. Not tucked underneath or pushed out in front.
  • Move your head and shoulders in-line above your knees.
  • Push down on the armrests while straightening your legs. If you haven’t got armrests or grab bars, you can place your hands onto your knees and push down on those. It’s not as good as using a frame but it will help.
  • Stand up.

Remember: Don’t hold onto a walking frame while you stand. It isn’t fixed and might topple over. Only use something that is firmly fixed to the wall or floor.

Sitting

But how do you sit down on the toilet in the first place? Maybe these tips will help you overcome that problem.

  • Stand so you can feel the front of the toilet seat against the back of your legs.
  • If you have grab rails,  hold onto them firmly.
  • Stand with your feet about a shoulder distance apart and distribute your weight evenly between them.
  • Bend slightly at your hips and knees and reach back for the frame if you have one.
  • Carry on feeling the toilet seat against your legs, slowly sit down taking your weight through your arms.
  • If you don’t have a frame or grab rail, hold onto your knees and push against those as you sit.
  • Move your bottom about until you are in the correct position and are comfortable.

Use toilet aids:

If you need a toilet aid to help you sit or stand, it’s best if you speak to your doctor who can refer you to an appropriate health care specialist for an assessment. As everyone’s needs are different, you should have a one-to-one discussion to find out what your needs are, and what aid is best for you.

Let’s have a little look at some of those that are available.

Toilet Frames and Surrounds

There are many of these on the market. All with a slight gimmick to help you decide to buy theirs. Although a frame placed around the toilet and fixed to the floor is probably the simplest, it may not be the best. The big problem with a frame is that it is fixed and you can’t move it out of the way to clean or if you need access with a wheelchair.

The best one to overcome these problems is a wall-mounted, drop down rail. They provide support when you need it and can be folded out of the way if you have able-bodied people sharing your home, need to clean around the toilet bowl or require access if you have a wheelchair.

Remember that if you choose a drop-down rail, it must be fitted to a wall with fixings appropriate for the wall. Many modern homes use plasterboard drywall as an internal wall covering.

Usually, these will not be strong enough to support the rail and your bodyweight unless the rail also has legs and feet that rest on the floor and can transfer your body weight to the floor. If you are in any doubt as to the best way to install these, consult a suitably qualified professional.

You will also find that the ideal type of and location for grab bars, rails and frames will depend on your size, stature, your specific mobility problem, whether you need a carer,  as well as the bathroom’s layout. Once again, this information can only be assessed by a suitably qualified occupational or physical therapist.

Elevated Toilet Seat

Many seniors with mobility problems find they can’t bend down to sit on a standard height toilet seat. Either their hips don’t work properly or their knees are at fault. A common way to fix this problem is by using a replacement toilet seat, one that’s thicker than standard. Although, there are many different variations on the theme.

Raise the toilet seat’s height. You can attach a raised toilet seat to the existing ceramic bowl while keeping the existing seat in the ‘up’ position. Or, remove the existing seat and replace it with a raised one using the same bolt holes. These methods can be temporary or permanent.

RELATED: How to make toilet seat higher?

Comfort Height Toilet

Raise the height of the toilet bowl. You can either position the standard ceramic toilet onto a shallow plinth, just high enough to give you the advantage. Otherwise, you can buy specially made non-standard toilet units that are taller than standard. In both cases, raising the height requires plumbing to be adjusted to suit different water and drainage systems. For this reason, it’s best to reserve these methods for a permanent application only.

Commode

A commode is a mobile chair on lockable wheels which has a detachable toilet bowl fitted in the seat. These are useful if you are bedridden and cannot walk very far or very quickly.

Many seniors have problems with needing the toilet in the middle of the night and might awaken with barely enough time to make it to the bathroom.

This is why a commode is so valuable. It can stay in your bedroom, and for much of the day, it can be used as a normal chair. When you need to use the toilet, just fold the seat upwards, revealing the bowl.

What’s next?

Whichever method you use to raise the toilet seat, remember that other people who live in your home, may wish to use the toilet as well and yours may not suit them. If you have more than one toilet at home, reserve one for you and one for everyone else. If not, then be prepared for some people, especially little children, to find your seat too high. 

Can’t get out of the bath?/How to Get out of a Bathtub?

Do you know why many seniors choose to use a shower rather than a bathtub? It’s quite simple really, most are frightened of slipping and falling when they get in or out. So why use a bathtub?

Showers are great if you want to keep clean and they don’t use a lot of water. But, I’ll bet you miss a long lazy soak in a bathtub, with lots of perfumed and foaming bath bombs. It’s even better if you can soak with a good book and a glass of wine! If you’re a senior, you don’t have to miss out on such a wonderful experience.

Hopefully, we’ll explain how you should climb out of a bathtub, how to keep your balance, and what bath aids you can use to improve the experience.

What is the correct way to get out of a bathtub?

If you have the mobility, climbing out of the tub isn’t that difficult if you take care, move slowly and hold onto things.

Okay, you’re sitting on your bottom in the bathtub. What do you do next?

  • Catch hold of the side of the tub, with your opposite arm (left-hand side of the tub, use right arm. Right-hand side of the tub, use left arm).
  • Pull yourself onto your side, and then onto your hands and knees. Do this slowly and hold onto something at all times.
  • Hold onto the side of the tub, push your upper body so you’re resting on knees only.
  • Hold onto the side of the tub nearest where you intend climbing out.
  • Lift your knees until you are standing on your feet.
  • While still holding on tight, lift one leg over the side of the tub. Transfer your weight to the leg that’s outside the tub.
  • Carry on holding the tub. Lift the other leg out of the tub and place that on the floor too.
  • You can now let go of the tub.

That should have been easy for those of us who have mobility, good balance and full use of our hips and knees.

But what happens if you don’t have enough mobility?

Practice balance exercises

It’s a good idea to improve our sense of balance, so try these simple exercises regularly (NOT in the bathtub!). If you do an online search there are many more you can try. Alternatively, speak to your doctor.

Walking sideways

  • Stand with your feet together.
  • Slowly, move one foot to the side.
  • Move the other one to join it.
  • Step from one side of the room to the other.

Walking sideways across

  • Stand with your feet together.
  • Cross your right foot over your left and place it on the floor.
  • Move your left foot so it’s next to the right foot and they are together.
  • Walk across the room for 5 steps.
  • Repeat using the other foot.

Heel to toe walk

  • Place your right heel directly in front of your left toes.
  • Do the same using the other foot. You may need to place your fingers against the wall or a chair for stability.
  • Do at least 5 steps, and if you can manage it,  move away from the wall.

RELATED: How to improve balance in seniors

Use Bathroom aids:

For those of us who aren’t very good on our feet, there are many aids we can use to help us enjoy a soak in the bathtub. You can even use some of them if you are mobile, as bathtubs can be dangerous places for anyone.

Use non-slip bath mats

A non-slip bath mat is a useful item to have, even if you are able-bodied. The floor of a bathtub or shower stall can both become very slippery when wet and soapy. So why not consider using one for all the family.

A typical bath mat is made from rubber, with suction cups covering the underside. The cups hold the mat in place so it won’t slide. Make sure to check the measurements of your tub or shower before you buy one as sizes vary.

Some incorporate a nylon brush foot cleaner, so you don’t have to bend down to wash your feet. Keep your eyes open for little gimmicks like this, that will make your wash time easier. Find more about non slip bath mats.

Use grab bars

Grab bars are useful to install, even if you have some mobility. They are usually made from metal or fiberglass and you install them on the wall above the bathtub.

You use them for additional support when attempting to bend, standing up or sitting down, or climbing in and out of the tub. They are so useful you will probably find lots of places around the house where you can use them. For example, next to the toilet, in the shower, by the front doorstep, or anywhere you need additional support. Find different types of grab bars.

Make sure they are installed using fixings suitable for the type of wall you have. It’s better if you install them onto solid brick walls as plasterboard drywall won’t always hold your weight. If you’re in any doubt, consult an appropriately skilled professional.

Use a shower chair

These are designed to fit in the bathtub or shower to help those of us who have problems standing. Not all are suitable for the bathtub, but you can buy two types that are. The free-standing stool and the wall fixed chair.

There are some with a built-in backrest and armrests as well as wall-mounted seats that fold up out of the way if you prefer. Whichever one you choose will depend on your circumstances and you should get an assessment from a professional medical practitioner before buying one.

RELATED: Best shower chairs for seniors

You will probably find that if you need a chair for support in a tub, you will be better using a shower anyway. So bear this in mind when you make your choice and take professional advice.

Install a walk-in bathtub

If you have the budget to buy a walk-in bathtub, then you probably won’t regret it. However, there are some things you should be aware of.

The lower end tubs with just a basic design will cost about $4,000 whereas a high-end tub with whirlpool and massage jets costs up to $12,000.

To use them you have to open the door and sit on the molded seat before sealing yourself inside. Only then can you start to fill the tub. Similarly, when you have finished bathing, you won’t be able to open the door until all the water has drained away. Depending on whether you feel the cold, sitting in the tub with no hot water may or may not be acceptable. 

You might also find that the waterproof seal might fail over time, resulting in a rather large puddle on the bathroom floor. Apart from these problems, a walk-in bathtub will allow you to soak if that’s what you prefer.

What’s next?

Check more ideas on how to to get out of a bathtub safely.