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Body Awareness is an issue for aging balance and independence

April 23, 2012

It had been a few years since I last saw mom. I was not sure what to expect to see or learn during my recent trip down to visit for the week. She had starting having issues with falling. Speaking with mom on the phone was still normal. She kept saying thankfully she has no major injuries from the falls, no broken bones and that she was really doing fine.  Well, it was time to see for myself.

Over the last year or so I had received a few calls from the emergency squad and from her peers and friends in her community about the falls she was having. Trips to the emergency room for head stitches, MRI’s and miscellaneous other scans for potential injuries seemed to becoming the norm.

Since I teach balance classes seniors I am quite familiar with how they walk as they age so pulling into mom’s driveway I was anxious to see how she was moving about.  Entering the house I heard her familiar and energetic “hello” and smiled to myself as she came around the corner moving with relative ease.  You see, she has a walker and cane yet moves freely without them. NOT TO SAY she should not use them.

During the first couple of days we walked, talked ran lots of errands. I observed moments of  mom’s wobble, cross over stepping and other symptoms of not being aware of how she was really moving. Was it cognitive decline or just lack of attention?  I knew I had some teaching to do just to change her awareness mindset to begin my testing.

My mom was like many seniors in my classes. When they first come they are not aware of how bad their posture has become or that “they just don’t know where they are in space” as they move around. One of the major issues they have is that they just move without having a sense of being in balance to start with. They suffer from a general loss of coordination.

I explained to mom the concept and showed her the method of checking her balance before she began to take a step. I also told her that as she moved about she should stop and take an assessment of her stance and stability. I worked with her on the upright stance, basic weight shift exercises and some general leg mobility exercises, which all work on building leg strength. I was glad to see that she remembered most of what I was showing her. For her age, she did quite well with them and seemed intent on working on them a little at a time.

Except for the balance issues and some shortness of breath, mom seemed otherwise very sharp, witty, and perfectly capable of taking care of herself.  Not at all what I was expecting to see.

During the week she mentioned a few times that her younger girlfriends fuss over her because she has fallen so many times and that she wishes they would realize she is fine.  All I could say was that it is up to her to prove to them she is as good as she feels she is.  Improving her capabilities using the methods and exercises I gave her will go a long way to helping her attain her goals. Hopefully it will reduce the number of calls I receive from frantic friends of hers saying that once again mom is in route to the ER.

How do you feel about  how you walk and move about?  Can you sense your body position and balance?

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