Better Balance Reduces Falls
While one in three adults over age 65 will experience a fall, age is not the only culprit in one’s risk of falling. Problems with balance affect people at all ages and stages of life.
There are a number of factors that could hinder balance, including: vision, eye coordination, concussion, problems with the middle ear, the ability to feel sensations through one’s foot, range of motion in ankles or hips and medication (including common blood pressure medications).
“If one’s problems with balance are not medication-related, then balance therapy may be able to help improve stability and confidence,” says Susan Golden, director, Neurorehabilitation, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network. “At Good Shepherd, we assess issues impacting a patient’s balance and then custom-design a program to meet his or her needs.”
Advanced technologies are often used during a balance evaluation for range of motion and strength, motion sensitivity and center of gravity and stability limits. For example, Good Shepherd offers the Smart EquiTest to help evaluate and treat vertigo and balance issues.
“During the evaluation, we will test ocular reflexes, dizziness intensity, how far forward a patient can reach without falling and how fast the patient can turn his or her head,” says Golden.
An individualized plan of therapy may include physical, occupational and/or vision therapy. During therapy, real-life situations may be simulated in order to help patients improve balance and confidence. Patients may be asked to perform tasks under different lighting conditions (simulated dawn and dusk), to perform dual-tasking (answering a cell phone while walking up stairs) and to complete real-life activities (such as throwing a baseball).
The goal of balance therapy is to to reduce the risk of fall so that one’s ability to work, drive, play sports and enjoy life is not hindered.