Maintaining balance is one of the most important things that a senior can do to stay healthy and live a long and enjoyable life.
It might seem like balance is all about the legs, but it is not. The core muscles of the body are mostly responsible for maintaining an individual in a standing or walking position. Muscles in the abdomen, buttocks, and hips are the muscles to strengthen for safe navigation on two feet.
Why the elderly lose their core muscles
Loss of core strength is not an inevitable part of aging. Nevertheless, many people over 65 lose substantial core muscle tone after hospitalization. These core muscles also deteriorate if a chronic illness keeps someone in bed or in a chair most of the time.
Unfortunately, even a healthy senior can lose core muscles just by spending too much time sitting in a chair watching television and not staying mobile. This can happen if a senior is too isolated or suffering from depression.
Ideally, no one would lose their core muscles. In the best possible world, all people would stay physically active by walking at least half a mile a day or engaging in another core-building exercise. If your beloved parent is still active, the best thing you can do is to help him continue being active.
First lines of defense
Once core strength is lost, it is quite an uphill battle to restore it. If your loved one is recovering from a hospital stay or a serious illness, like pneumonia, he or she may need physical therapy. If your senior’s doctor does not recommend a certified physical therapist, be sure to ask for one.
While loss of core strength is the most common cause of poor balance, it is not the only cause. Seniors who have developed balance problems should see an eye doctor to have their vision evaluated. Sometimes the right pair of glasses can restore the world to an orderly place that is easier to navigate.
The brain also plays an important part in balance. That means your senior should be screened for brain or nerve disorders that could play a part in falling.
Easy exercises to do at home
There are several safe and easy exercises seniors can do at home to improve balance. Always consult with your senior’s doctor before trying any new exercise routines. In general, medical experts recommend:
Walking from one part of the house to another and eventually outside on the sidewalk. A severely debilitated senior should be gently encouraged to walk a little further every day until she can walk at least half a mile. An elder care professional care be of great assistance in coaching this achievement.
The chair to standing exercise. This involves sitting in a chair, back straight, feet as far apart as the hips and flat on the floor. Then push off slowly until standing upright. Then sit back down in the same chair. Depending on the senior’s core strength, she may initially need a chair with arms so that she can grasp the chair and use her arm muscles to push off. The eventual goal, however, is to stand up without using hands or arms.
Weight shifting. This exercise involves standing with the feet as far apart as the hips, then shifting weight from one leg onto the other, then back again. Repeat ten times starting out, or as much as the senior can tolerate.
In brief, the best way to ensure good balance is not to lose core strength in the first place. But core strength can be recovered. It may take a while, but those over 65 can become much stronger with daily exercise. The key is to keep at it. Elder care professionals can be a huge help in encouraging a senior to rebuild his balance through simple daily movements.
If you or an aging loved one is considering elder care in Old Bridge, NJ, please contact the caring staff at Care Street Home Care today. Call (732) 607-8870.