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Maintaining good balance is important at any age.
When you’re younger, good balance is mostly a matter of keeping your core muscles strong—and maybe feeling lucky you didn’t inherit the family gene for clumsiness.
But as we age, other factors can creep in.
Weakened muscles or poor vision can compromise our ability to remain steady on our feet. As can some medications. But the natural aging process doesn’t have to mean you’re constantly on the brink of falling.
If you or a senior loved one is struggling to remain steady on your feet, the cause might be something other than age.
Balance problems can stem from a specific injury, disorder, or disease.
The cause could be one of the balance problems outlined below.
The Five Most Common Balance Problems
Since it’s Balance Awareness Week, we wanted to share a quick summary of balance problems that caregivers and seniors should know about.
1. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), BPPV is one of the most common types of balance disorders. Few people have probably heard of it. But if you’re over 60, keep an eye out for its primary symptom: intense vertigo when moving your head. This can occur even when you’re merely rolling over in bed. It’s an inner ear disturbance that has a number of causes, including a head injury, an ear infection, and aging.
2. Ménière's Disease
The NIH also lists this as a common cause of balance problems. One sign of the disease is a ‘full’ feeling in the ear. People with Ménière's Disease also may experience vertigo, ringing in the ears, and sporadic hearing loss. Hearing loss can affect balance and increase the risk of falls.
When the inner ear becomes infected and inflamed, the result can be balance problems. Labyrinthitis is an inner ear infection often linked to a case of the flu.
4. Chronic Conditions
Certain chronic conditions can result in balance problems, too. If you have eye problems, for example, you may find it more difficult to keep your balance.
Long-term medical condition that affects the nervous system can have an impact on balance, too. Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Multiple Sclerosis are just a few.
In addition, arthritis, heart problems, and certain medications seniors take for chronic illnesses can all contribute to unsteadiness.
5. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
Older adults may be more prone to shingles, a skin condition caused by a virus. In some cases, the shingles virus can affect facial nerves near the ear. That condition is called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
The vertigo experienced by people with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is often accompanied by ear pain and loss of the ability to hear. If you or your senior loved one experience these symptoms, seek medical help.
Plan for Future Care to Manage Falls
If balance problems persist, it is important to take a hard look at the senior’s home environment. Is an older home with poor lighting or multiple sets of stairs putting them at greater risk for a fall?
Falls happen to one of three older Americans each year and remain a leading cause of disability among seniors. It may be time to consider a move to a community that is designed to meet the unique needs of older adults.
If you’re not sure what type of senior housing is the best fit for you loved one, take the Sunrise Senior Living Care Questionnaire. It’s a commitment-free way to explore your options!