Limited Mobility and Balance Loss in Seniors
If you’re a senior, you’ve probably already noticed that you don’t get around as easily as you once did. In fact, limited mobility is a common problem experienced by older people. There are different reasons, ranging from loss of balance and health issues to falls. But moving and having the ability to walk and get around is vital to stay as healthy as possible, even as you age.
If you lose your mobility, it can not only affect you physically but socially and psychologically as well. Let’s learn more about limited mobility and loss of balance issues in seniors. The more you arm yourself with knowledge, the more of a chance you have of overcoming the obstacles faced over limited mobility.
Why is limited mobility common in seniors?
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) says there several reasons that seniors are easily disposed to becoming limited in their mobility.
The aging process
As older adults age, the factors leading to limited mobility increase.
Impaired strength and loss of balance.
Unfortunately, this can create a cause and effect scenario. If you lack power in your legs, you move less and have less blood circulating for nutrients to reach all throughout your body. This can make you even weaker, so you move less and less. If you’re less active, you also lose confidence in your balance and become afraid of falling, which tends to limit your mobility further.
Once again, this can lead to you becoming more inactive and cutting off vital circulation to your body. Your muscles get weaker and limit your mobility even more. Some illnesses will also cause a loss of balance, further impeding your ability to stay active. Arthritis, peripheral artery disease, and diabetes are common illnesses that can cause you to become more inactive.
Low physical activity threshold.
This is often due to struggling with illness, impaired strength, and loss of balance. It all goes back to the chicken or the egg theory. The question is, which came first as each factor can worsen another. The less you move, the more of a chance that your immobility will progress until you find yourself doing less and less. This is why it’s so critical to address the causes of your limited mobility so that you can find ways to become more active again.
Older adults who are obese tend to be less active, which can only compound the weight gain.
Recent illness or hospitalization.
An acute illness or condition, such as a fall or pneumonia, can lead to a long period of inactivity. It might take a while to get your strength and functioning back and feel confident that your body is stronger.
Other factors can also lead to limited mobility as you get older. You may be unable to drive and get out less. This can have a profound impact on your quality of life as well as your outlook. The factors surrounding reduced mobility or loss of balance issues have a cascading effect.
The important thing is to acknowledge that it’s happening, share your concerns with family members and your physician, and find ways to improve your balance and mobility.
Loss of balance and falls
Loss of balance is such an important issue to address with your doctor if you start experiencing it. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons that seniors make an appointment with their doctor.
Not only are balance issues unpleasant, but the risk of falling is dangerous. Many older people who fall do so because they feel off balance or dizzy. You need to feel a sense of balance to control how your body moves. Having good balance is essential even if you’re just trying to sit still.
Balance helps with so many things. You can walk normally, get up from a seated position, bend over, and more if your balance is good. And being able to do these things is important in staying mobile so you can get around and do the activities you want to do.
What is probably of utmost importance to you is that having a good balance can help you function independently, without needing help to get around.
So, what causes a loss of balance? It can be any number of things.
Inner ear and middle ear problems.
You’re more likely to feel dizziness or vertigo, as though the room is spinning or you’re spinning if an inner or middle ear disorder is to blame for feeling off-balance.
Bacterial or viral infection.
Having an infection can create the same type of unbalanced feeling as an inner ear issue. Thankfully, infections are usually limiting in how long they affect your body, and once an infection clears up, any dizziness or loss of balance should resolve itself./span>
If your circulatory system doesn’t work right, it can cause balance issues or dizziness. These include low blood pressure, stroke, or even a head injury caused by a fall or other accident. Also, diabetes and peripheral artery disease can affect the way your body circulates blood from the heart and throughout your body. You can improve the circulation in your body by moving around more or even by using a circulation-boosting product that will help get the blood flowing in your body.
Many times, a simple explanation for balance issues is due to medication reactions. Your dose of medication may be too high for you and might need a minor adjustment from your doctor. Ask your doctor if your medication may be causing you to feel off-balance and if it’s possible to substitute it for another prescription.
If you feel lightheaded, dizzy, off-balance, or as though the room is spinning, it’s time to find out why. The problem could be something as simple as needing a medication adjustment or a change of medication altogether. Or, it could signal a more pressing health matter that needs attention from your physician.
Symptoms or side effects that might accompany a balance loss
You might have other side effects, signs, or symptoms along with your balance problems. They can include:
- A staggering gait or walk
- Falling back down to a seated position when you try to stand from a chair
- Feeling as though you will fall once standing, or falling altogether
- Feeling faint, unsteady, or lightheaded
- Feeling dizzy, or as though you’re spinning or floating
- Blurry vision
- Feeling confused or disoriented
- Vomiting or feeling nauseous
- Changes in your blood pressure or heart rate
- Increased anxiety or panic
- Fearing that more activity will lead to a loss of balance
If you have some of these signs or symptoms accompanying your loss of balance, it’s crucial to discern the reason as soon as possible. You want to ensure that you are safe when you move around. Plus, you don’t want balance problems to disrupt your life or limit your mobility, which can only make you decline further.
Step to Improve Mobility and a Sense of Balance in Older Adults
If you feel your mobility is reduced or you’ve experienced balance issues, your goals should be to find safe ways to stay mobile and increase your level of function so that you can ultimately have a better quality of life.
There are likely multiple contributing factors for any deficits you’re having. Likewise, there are various steps you can take to improve your mobility and balance.
- Talk to your doctor about your concerns. Acknowledging that you’re having problems with gait and mobility, or if your balance feels off is paramount. So many older adults ignore their symptoms in the beginning and hope that things get better. But, the key to preventing a worsening of your symptoms is to address them as early as possible. If you fall, feel off balance, or feel unsteady when trying to move around, let your physician know. They’re best qualified to determine a reason for your symptoms.
- Ask your physician about exercise or physical therapy. While maintaining movement is important, you need to do so in a safe manner. Your doctor may prescribe therapy for you that will address your balance, improve strength in your body and legs, and help you be able to move for longer durations. Targeting these areas could help reduce the number of falls you have, if not prevent it altogether. A physical therapist can also evaluate your gait disturbances and work together with your doctor, so you see maximum improvement.
- Remain active. Again, while this is part of the overall strategy of improving mobility and reducing episodes where you feel off-balance, it needs to be done in tandem with care from your physician. Once your stamina is improved, walking and stretching can keep you mobile and prevent long-term disabilities.
- Review medications with your doctor. So many medicines that are taken by seniors cause balance problems. You may also be on a tad higher dose than you need to be. If you’re on medication or your symptoms start after beginning one, your physician may need to adjust your medicine.
- Identify hazards that increase chances for a fall. Many seniors have years of items they’ve collected in the home. If your home is full of clutter, it can increase the chances of a fall. Have a relative help you clear your home of clutter and donate the items. Also, identify whether there are items in your home that are tripping hazards. Finally, make sure your home has good lighting so that you can always see where you’re going. Falls are often the beginning of mobility and balance issues, so preventing falls in the first place can go a long way towards ensuring your mobility.
- Eat healthily and strive for a healthier weight. The truth is that if you’re not carrying around more than you should, it’ll be easier to improve your mobility and balance. Your body will be less stressed, and you’ll be able to control your movements better.
- Ask your physician about products that can help. For instance, a cane or walker may be necessary to help you feel steadier. Also, if your problems are due to circulation issues or you have a condition that can benefit by improving the blood circulation in your legs or body, a circulation booster might be the answer. These are products you use at home that stimulate the blood flow in your legs.
- Foster social connections. There are community centers and hospitals with activities that are targeted towards seniors. If you can find something to do that is enjoyable for you, you’ll get out more and stay mobile.
Limited mobility and loss of balance symptoms are important to address. It’s best to deal with these symptoms at the onset to prevent further loss of mobility and disability.
If you have any of the mobility or balance problems we’ve outlined, talk to your doctor. They can help find a cause and determine the best way to approach your loss of mobility and balance.
Staying active is so important for seniors. It helps to keep the blood flowing in your body while maintaining your stamina so that your mobility isn’t limited.
Mobility limitations and balance disturbances are common in older adults. But, it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. There are likely things you can do to improve your symptoms so that you can live a more fulfilling life.
Disclaimer: This content is not intended as medical advice. We believe in helping people to make informed decisions about their health. We hope to empower you to ask your physician the right questions so you can both agree on a treatment plan that’s right for you.
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