Saturday, December 08, 2007

Frailty: Improve Balance

Frailty in your aging parent or loved one can be prevented with regular exercise. If your older relative or friend is reasonably healthy, he or she can begin a regular program of exercise including stretching, weight training, and low impact aerobics, after discussing it with his or her physician. Exercise can help to avoid accidents, improve strength and mobility, lower blood pressure, and help to prevent or control some diseases. If your loved one is frail or ill, you can ask the physician about what exercises may be appropriate.

One of the primary areas of concern in frail older adults is balance. The balance system includes all the senses that tell a person how they are moving, the brain which puts this information together, and the muscles that control movements. People of all ages and abilities need to keep their balance system healthy, and no one is too young or too old to benefit. A healthy balance system helps a person to look and feel good - move freely and confidently, and have more energy and strength. A poor balance system causes a person to move more conservatively and be fearful of normal movement. Decreased mobility leads to more severe balance impairment and more fear of movement. Get the picture?

The complex balance system needs plenty of regular 'practice'. As children we develop good balance by practicing balancing activities - walking along walls, jumping, spinning and climbing. Your older relative or friend may want to begin such an exercise program under a physical therapist’s supervision. Physical therapy, when ordered by a physician, is covered under most health insurance plans. Discuss the potential benefit of phyical therapy with the doctor. The physical therapist can show how to do range of motion, stretching, and strengthening exercises. Over time, these exercises can help to increase strength, balance and ultimately mobility.