Losing a sense of balance is nothing new to seniors. Health experts have revealed that balance issues are relatively widespread, with seniors beginning to lose or face other balance challenges as soon as they turn 50.
While most people believe that the constant struggle to stay steady and upright solely stems from declining health and frailer limbs, poor balance in seniors can emerge due to various reasons and factors. What causes balance issues in seniors exactly? Learn about the root causes of balance issues and practical tips to help your seniors improve their balance and stay steady on their feet.
Feeling Off-Balance: Causes and Management Tips to Help Seniors Deal With Balance Issues
What Causes Balance Issues in Seniors?
Before diving into the causes of balance issues, let’s learn about the definition of balance. Balance refers to positioning the body’s alignment to maintain and achieve a state of postural stability while performing any physical activity. The sense of control over the entire body influences a person’s ability to stand still, walk, rise from a chair, climb stairs, bend over, or turn to look behind.
Here are some of the most common causes that may be to blame for seniors’ loss of balance.
- Weakened Muscles: Stiff or weakened core muscle strength and unstable joints can cause seniors to feel off balance.
- Chronic Health Conditions: Long-term conditions, such as arthritis, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, and cardiovascular disease, can throw off balance in seniors, making it more challenging to stay balanced when walking or performing daily tasks, especially if they live alone.
- Inner Ear Issues: The vestibular system regulates the body’s balance system. Labyrinthitis, a respiratory issue or a virus infecting or inflaming the inner ear, can lead to vertigo or imbalance. The condition causes seniors to develop dizziness or feel off-balance as if the room is spinning. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is an inner-ear condition that causes sudden vertigo in seniors, in which they experience intense sensations of spinning and whirling or brief episodes of unsteadiness, dizziness, and nausea. Seniors with BPPV can lose their balance when turning their heads or walking. BPPV can go away within a few weeks but may be recurring for several months.
- Unstable Blood Pressure: High and low blood pressure can disturb an aging adult’s ability to maintain their sense of balance, as they may experience a range of symptoms, such as disorientation, dizziness, or lightheadedness, when their blood pressure is either too high or too low.
- Circulatory System Issues: Significant changes in the circulatory system or inadequate oxygen supply to vital organs like the heart and brain (brain hypoxia) can stir up dizziness, making it difficult to support the body’s alignment.
- Neurological Issues: Age-related conditions like multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease can cause seniors to face muscle stiffness or weakness, making it difficult to maintain balance and mobility.
- Vision Problems: The decline in vision acuity can adversely affect a senior’s gait and balance. When a senior develops poor eyesight caused by age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, or cataracts, they are more likely to have more problems with remaining balance due to the uncertainty of their footstep and surroundings while navigating in the house.
- Medication Side Effects: Feeling unbalanced or drowsy sometimes results from certain medications that seniors regularly take to manage their health conditions, including antidepressants, high blood pressure medicine, tranquilizers, and anti-seizure medicines.
- Nutrition Deficiency: Insufficient vitamin B12 levels can cause dizziness and neurological problems that might lead to greater feeling off-balance and difficulty walking or maintaining posture.
Signs and Symptoms of Balance Issues
It can’t be denied that balance plays a vital role in everyday life. Without balance, we might be unable to maintain our posture while walking or standing still. According to the National Institute of Aging, balance is even more crucial for seniors. It helps them remain independent, get around the house, and perform daily tasks with greater ease and peace of mind, especially if they have no assistance from children or caregivers.
Aging adults with balance issues might face the following symptoms and signs, including:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fluctuating heart rates and blood pressure
- Feeling panicked, fearful, or anxious
- Feeling dizzy when standing up
- Feeling faintness, floating, or lightheadedness
- Feeling unstable while walking or standing
- Experiencing the feeling of spinning after standing for prolonged periods
- Experiencing blurry vision or seeing floaters in the vision field
How to Know If Your Parents Have Balance Issues
In addition to above symptoms and signs above, which can be vague at times, the National Institute of Aging has developed a series of questions to help determine whether your parents or someone you care for are facing balance issues. Ask them the following questions:
- Do you feel unsteady?
- Do you feel as if you are moving even though you are standing or sitting still?
- Do you feel as if the room is spinning around you for a brief period?
- Do you feel as if you are about to fall?
- Do you lose your balance and fall?
- Does your vision become blurry?
If your parents tick off “yes” to half or most of the questions, it is time to speak with their doctors. Early interventions better support seniors’ overall health and help diagnose underlying health conditions associated with balance issues before they start altering their overall quality of life by increasing their risk of falling or anxiety.
Tips to Help Seniors Deal With Balance Issues
Did you know that balance issues are relatively progressive and can be effectively managed with lifestyle adjustments combined with a doctor’s treatment plan? After addressing the root causes, consider these tips and measures to prevent or delay the loss of balance for your parents as follows:
- Engage in Balance Exercises: Routine exercises can help seniors train their muscle core strength and build their nerve connections. Work closely with a physical therapist to determine what kind of exercise can work best for your parents regarding safety and physical capacity. Balance exercises like Tai Chi or yoga are ideal for supporting seniors to regain and improve their balance. It is important to note that these physical exercises can’t reverse balance issues if in-ear issues cause your parents’ loss of balance.
- Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle: An unhealthy lifestyle is directly connected with various health concerns. Making changes as needed in your parents’ lifestyle and diets is the way to go regarding regaining balance. Remind them to quit drinking and smoking, drink plenty of water, lower sodium and sugar intake, and monitor blood sugar levels.
- Remove In-Home Obstacles: Removing obstacles in your parents’ home or conducting a minor renovation is another excellent way to accommodate your parents better and make their aging in place much safer. Take a tour and note possible tripping hazards, such as loose rugs, doormats, and uneven steps. Clear objects on the floor in the hallways or high-traffic areas. If you need more suggestions on making improvements in the home, partner up with a physical therapist for personalized recommendations.
- Install Assistive Devices: If your parents live alone, consider installing more railings and grab bars along the bathroom walls and shower, allowing them to move around more comfortably. Add more nightlights in the kitchen and bathroom to help your parents better navigate their steps. Motion detector lights turning the light on and off based on motion are a perfect addition to your parent’s home if they want to avoid the hassle of flipping a switch in darkened rooms.
Manage Balance Issues With 12 Oaks Communities
Aging is never easy. Seniors are more vulnerable to many mental and physical health threats, preventing them from living their best lives and achieving greater peace of mind. The loss of balance is one of those health issues arising from old age. More than stiff joints or frailer limbs, balance problems can interfere with their quality of life and ability to remain independent.
In addition to the management tips suggested above, our 12 Oaks-managed senior living communities offer well-rounded services and assistance and a range of activities that improve your seniors’ sense of balance while closely assessing their health conditions to deliver the best care possible by our professional team. Our team members work diligently to create a family-like atmosphere where your parents can feel more comfortable and worry less about balance issues.
If you have questions about what causes balance issues in seniors or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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