Falls Prevention- a Physical Fitness Essential

Front: (L-R) Fran Coscisa, Inez Zimmerman, and Beverley Ikier. Rear: (L-R) Pam Carle, Carol Goldberg, Lorraine Caron, Liz Sullivan by: Rick Karwan

By Beverley Ikier  |

Have you fallen lately? Have you fallen and fractured a bone? Are you afraid of falling?

If you have answered “yes” to one of the above, please read on and find out how you can turn your life around and be proactive in regaining confidence to do what you like to do.

Acrobats and gymnasts fall off the beam many, many times before they develop the skills to perform cartwheels on it; the artists of Cirque du Soleil think nothing of practicing one maneuver six hours a day until they “get” it. Of course, their life depends on it, but doesn’t yours?

The statistics around falls and fractures are increasing daily and the prognosis for rehabilitating from a hip fracture after the age of 50 is grim; mortality rates are high and a third of patients require long term care after a fracture, according to the International Osteoporosis foundation.

You are probably sitting to read this, but if you sit a lot because you are afraid of falling, then you are putting yourself MORE at risk for fracture because you are losing bone mass. By not placing a force on your bones from muscular activity, they stop new cell production. (Do not even cough!)

In the sixties and seventies, I was nursing in McGill’s busy teaching hospitals, the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Montreal Neurological Institute, daily offsetting the ramifications of the now- considered deadly- BED REST. To keep patients from falling flat on the floor after 2 weeks in bed for appendectomies, childbirth or any procedure that required 30 or more minutes of general anesthesia, we had to “dangle” them. That’s right, all doctors ordered “dangling” before walking as lying about caused gross imbalance; a given in conjunction with de-conditioning

So much has been learned about activity and health promotion we can hardly grasp the 180 degree turns in the treatment of many conditions. For example, arthritis? Then, it was “take it easy” and “save some steps.” Now, we know to strengthen and walk. The same is true for heart surgery. Post-surgery care was “bed rest.” Now, patients are put straight on a treadmill. And today, breaking news is that by exercising the balance system, it can be developed and strengthened just like a muscle.

I’d like you to meet the home team-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the opposing team, contributing to imbalance:

1. Medical conditions (Parkinson’s, low blood pressure, dehydration, inner ear pathology)

2. Medications (for high blood pressure, diuretics, barbiturates, mood altering and sleep inducing)

3. Dehydration

4. Fear of falling

Apart from inactivity, the above mentioned can seriously affect balance but will respond to balance exercises.

Exercises to Promote balance

These are best learned in a balance class under the supervision of a trained, experienced practitioner. However, the following exercises are safe and simple, offer some benefit, and will get you started. All may be performed seated. Anyone at a higher fitness level will require more challenging exercises.

Eyes

  • Move eyeballs left and right, and up and down, following a fingertip.
  • Standing, keep your eyes on fingertip and turn around full circle.

Inner Ear

  • Turn head left and right, starting slowly and increasing the speed. If you get dizzy, stop and wait until it subsides, and try again.

Muscles – mainly of the lower body

  • Stand up from a hard chair. Sit down and repeat; gradually “stop the drop” a few inches above the chair. You may fatigue, but this is strengthening.
  • To stretch, straighten out you leg and push heel away from you. Hold this for 30 seconds.

 Feet

  • Without shoes, apply foot to a tennis ball and roll, keeping the knee bent and the foot under the knee.
  • Take care of calluses and long toe-nails.

Walking safety- “Five for Focus.”

Practice this one starting now, and you will be amazed at the quick results. Take five seconds to view your terrain. What happens is your eyes send messages to the brain detailing the route you have chosen, including heights, widths, depths of obstacles you may have to deal with; lighting, noises, types of terrain and where it may change, for example, cement, grass, mud, puddle. Your brain then selects muscles to advise them of some upcoming performance, for example stepping up, pivoting, ducking down, turning right or left and puts them on “speed dial” for easy recall.

Now, when you start your walk, the calls go through, the muscles do their job, and you are safe. Without this five seconds to focus, you cannot expect your body to respond and perform safely in a new environment; even a familiar one, for that matter. Take “Five for Focus.”

Hydration

64 oz is the recommended daily intake of water. Fill up your containers at the start of the day and begin infusing early. Caffeine and related products take water out of the cell,- so replace the water you lose throughout the day and carry on.

It is predicted that one out of three people over the age of 65 will fall once a year. Each fall causes increasing debilitative results.

You may start now; I just want to encourage you as these exercises and safety precautions can prevent falls, in spite of abovementioned medical conditions and pharmaceuticals. I have been working with 100 seniors a week for 15 years, and to date, we have defied ALL the odds regarding falls and fractures.

 

 

Please contact Beverley Ikier at: wellness@theikiercenter.com,

or 781-229-1967 for classes in falls prevention, or to have a program in your facility.

 

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