Q: I have fallen several times. Is there really anything I can do to improve my balance?
A: Yes! Balance training has been shown to be an important and effective part of falls prevention. Your physical therapist will design exercises that challenge your ability to keep your balance, including such exercises as single-leg standing.
Walking and Moving - When people walk very slowly or are unsteady, they are at risk of falling. Your physical therapist can improve your walking ability by having you do such activities as:
Walking in circles
"Figure 8" exercises to strengthen the core abdominal muscles that help stabilize your body
Doing More Than One Thing at the Same Time Safely: Older adults who have difficulty walking and talking at the same time are at a higher risk of falling. To help increase your safety during daily activities, your physical therapist can design a "dual-task" training program. This kind of training will challenge you to maintain walking speed while you do another task, such as counting backwards, engaging in a conversation, or carrying a bag of groceries.
Q: I am not as strong as I used to be. What exercises should I do to increase my strength?
A: Strengthening exercises are a key element of fall prevention when they are done in conjunction with balance training. Your physical therapist will design strengthening exercises that focus on your leg and the muscles used in maintaining posture.
Q: I have a good friend who fell and broke her hip. I am terrified of falling. What should I do?
A: There are a few things you should do.
Education: Your physical therapist will take the time to explain to you how to best manage your own risks for falling. Your therapist also may talk to you about the best activities for you to do to maintain your quality of life.
Fear Management: It will be important for you to talk with your physical therapist about any fear of falling that you have. Your therapist will work with you to determine whether there are activities you should avoid. Your therapist also will work with you to determine whether your fear may be unfounded and whether there are activities that you should be doing to keep strong and help your balance.
Community Programs: The Busti Lakewood Recreation Center has various programs through the Golden Agers Club. Contact them for more details.
Also, the great people at Chautauqua County RSVP sponsor a program called "Healthy Bones" to address osteoporosis and balance. The program is a very minimal cost and can serve as a wonderful tool to address these issues. Contact Debbie Basile, 665-8039, to learn more.
Reduce their fear of falling
Set goals for increasing their physical activity
Make their homes more safe
Do more exercise to increase strength and balance
These programs often are led by volunteer coaches. Your physical therapist may be involved in setting up one or these programs and can help you find programs in your area that would be best for you.
Chautauqua Physical & Occupational Therapy is celebrating 17 years of serving our community. We are located in the Riverwalk Center, are therapist owned and are the only outpatient clinic in the area to offer free consultations. Call us at 488-2322 or visit www.chautauquapt.com.