We’re going to step away from pediatrics for a day and focus on grandparents (and in some cases, great-grandparents). At some point in our lives, many of us are called upon to care for an elderly family member, probably our own parent. My friend and physical therapist, John Duffy, reminds us that prevention is a concept applicable to seniors’ well-being as much as it is to children’s health:
Some of you already know that my Mom passed away the day after Xmas, after falling mid December. At 87 years of age, we warned her a billion times of the risks of a fall. This one didn’t break a hip or cause another brain bleed, but as can happen with the elderly, it began a rapid decline. Besides nagging, there are many things we can do to prevent these accidents….which results in an older person going to the ER every 11 SECONDS, and results in the death of an elderly person every 19 MINUTES. 27K deaths per year due to falls in the elderly…..$34 BILLION was the expense in 2013.
Exercise and physical therapy are very proven treatments to improve balance/strength and coordination in the elderly and reduce fall risks….along with a LOT of education….better lighting, removing obstacles, take up throw rugs, etc. One type of exercise that can at least be done at home is Tai Chi. I have seen so many research studies on this routine detailing improvements in balance, strength, coordination, and reduced falls. At least it’s something people can do at home, daily, with a DVD or following a YouTube video. So, if you know and love someone at risk for falling, and would like to see them stick around this world a bit longer, perhaps try nudging them down the exercise pathway.
Stephanie Watson points to a 45% decrease in falls among seniors who do tai chi:
With its integrative approach that strengthens the body while focusing the mind, tai chi addresses a range of physical and mental health issues—including bone strength, joint stability, cardiovascular health, immunity, and emotional well-being. Tai chi is especially useful for improving balance and preventing falls—a major concern for older adults…
Tai chi helps improve balance because it targets all the physical components needed to stay upright—leg strength, flexibility, range of motion, and reflexes—all of which tend to decline with age.
Pediatricians advise parents to baby-proof their houses by getting down on all-fours to view the world the way a crawling infant or walking toddler sees it. The same goes with protecting our elders. Walk around their houses and get in their shoes (literally, even), and help keep their paths to a long, healthy life well-lit and free of clutter.