A Day in an Elder's Life
INTERESTING STUFF: 15 January 2011

THE TGB GERIATRICIAN: Balance and Avoiding Falls

The TGB Geriatrician is Dr. Bill Thomas (bio), a world-renowned geriatrician, author, blogger (ChangingAging) and creator of the Eden Alternative.

Most recently, he has partnered with the Picker Institute, a leading foundation for health care reform that places a person's needs, interests and desires at the center of their care. Dr. Thomas and Picker operate an advocacy program called RealCareNow to promote patient-centered care – of which this series on Time Goes By is a part.

After our last conversation with Bill about Elder Energy Budgets, several of you left questions about difficulties with balance and how we can help avoid falling. So today's video tackles just that.

We haven't yet sorted out how to get transcripts made, so for people who have hearing deficits, here are Bill's bullet points:

  • Number 1: You do not lose your ability to balance just because you age.

  • Balance is a set of skills and abilities. Tai chi provides some of the best balance work Bill knows of.

  • Yoga is wonderful way to increase balance skills.

  • Get a prescription from your physician for physical therapy to do balance training.

  • Some health care providers have developed a sort of balance boot camp that can give you common-sense tricks to help maintain balance and avoid falling.

  • Wii is a fantastic, safe way to increase balance skills and also provides measurements to show you how you're doing.

[Is there an elder health issue you'd like Dr. Thomas to discuss? Leave your suggestions in the comments below and they may turn up in a future video. Remember, Dr. Thomas cannot advise on specific personal health problems.]

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Rita Kenefic: What More Could One Ask?


I'm here to testify once again for the value of Tai Chi. When I started I could not stand on one leg for even 1 second. Now I can do it for several. I haven't fallen lately, which I did several times before I took myself down to the Tai Chi studio. It is a mind-body exercise, too. Learning the complex moves is a mental exercise that beats doing puzzles because it also involves moving your body.

Great post! Tai Chi here I come! Dee

Poor balance has always been an issue for me. My family would not buy a bicycle for me when I was a child because they were afraid I would kill myself. Skinned knees were a way of life for me because I was constantly falling.

Now that I am old, it is a much larger problem. I have taken some nasty spills, breaking my shoulder, getting a concussion, and breaking my hip.

I did get balance training through physical therapy and it helps. But I am so afraid of falling that I use a walker almost all the time to give me balance.

I am probably my own worst enemy because I am paranoid about falling again and I don't trust myself.

Tai Chi sounds like something I should look into.

I take a 2 times a week yoga class at our local community college. It's inexpensive and fun and I feel so much better when I am taking it. The title of the class is "Yoga for Special Bodies" which is a bit strange, but this type of class is also called "Gentle Yoga." Lots of stretching and balance moves!Also a social time with the other class members and terrific (over 60) teacher!

Thanks again for this helpful information. I agree the physical therapy for balance is useful. I did that for a few months last year and it did help. I need to investigate the other suggestions made on this video.

It is encouraging that there are ways to improve balance as we age. I read that there are thousands of broken hips that are the result of falls and older people do not recover well from this. 30% of those over 80 who suffer a broken hip die within a year. Prevention is truly the cure for this.

Great topic. I myself used to experience deep but momentary dizziness whenever I looked up and turned my head, such as at the shelves in the grocery store or the library or the video store's wall.

Well, it turns out to be a more frequent problem as we age, and it is commonly known by the name 'top shelf vertigo' but science has named it BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo http://www.dizziness-and-balance.com/disorders/bppv/bppv.html), because * it has no other bad effects, * it comes and goes quickly, * it is dependent upon your head's positioning and * it causes a short spell of dizziness.

Now, my doctor knew I was otherwise symptom-free and in good health, so when I described it to him, he simply supplied me with a xeroxed sheet illustrating a procedure called the Epley maneuver http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deSrURjiYIM&feature=related
and told me to go home and try it.

BPPV becomes much more common with advancing age, where it is twice as common among women.

Yes, it works for me, (I am in excellent health with no evidence of stroke risk or neurological problems, and I hate to pay for what I can do myself!)

P.S. The most common place I suffered this was in the shower! I wondered if this is the cause of so many falls in showers....

I began doing yoga in my late 20s and became totally confident of my balance. Five years ago I tried to jump across a ditch, missed, fell and broke my hip. I recovered quicker than MDs expected for a 66 year old. But that one incident robbed me of my trust in my sense of balance. I find myself reaching for banisters and railings which I never did before. I have had no falls since that time but I'm amazed how confidence can disappear in a moment's time. I can still do the Tree asana and balance on one leg, as well as other balancing positions. Just an obsevation, perhaps individual and too personal to apply to others.

I've never had a good sense of balance, so I've always had to work on it. The result is I'm very "well balanced" for my age. And when I go hiking I always use a walking stick.

b-12 shot once a month solved my fall/balance problems. check if you're low on this range. I was.

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