I'm Worried About My Mom Falling, What Can I Do?
Updated: Jan 23
First, I applaud you for your concern. Although a fall happens within seconds, there can be so many scenarios that happen after the fall. I also want to give you kudos for being proactive and taking action now, before your Mom falls.
The action to take depends on why you feel concerned. Are you concerned because you are seeing memory or thought process issues? Are you concerned because your Mom says she is "dizzy?" Are you concerned because you are seeing that she isn't moving as steadily?
If your Mom is unsteady due to problems with memory or thought processes, I tend to think even bigger picture. Is she actually safe in her current living situation? I immediately think of your Mom potentially getting lost or wandering. I worry about her leaving the stove on. I even worry about emergency situations, like a fire - would your Mom be able to leave her home safely? When your Mom is in this type of situation, it is best to talk to her doctor about options. I'll be honest, when someone has substantial memory deficits, I have not seen meaningful improvement in steadiness as a result of physical therapy services.
Is your Mom unsteady because she feels "dizzy?" This can actually be a bit more complex. "Dizzy" is a very general term that means different things to different people. In the medical world, "dizzy" means that the room is spinning. When the room is spinning, that means that the information going to the brain from one inner ear does not match the information from the other inner ear. The conflicting information basically confuses the brain and ends up creating that room spinning sensation. If the symptoms typically happen after changing positions and lasts a couple of minutes or less, then there is a reasonably quick fix. Quite frequently when this situation happens, for lack of a better description, the little "hairs" in the inner ear are not moving on one side because a crystal is lodged against it. A physical therapist can assess the situation and also treat the condition quite successfully usually within 1-2 visits. If the dizziness symptom of the room spinning lasts more than a couple of minutes, your Mom needs to be evaluated by an ear, nose and throat specialist to determine why she has the symptom.
I specialize in working with individuals who appear to be unsteady without any other medical conditions. Often times they appear unsteady because they are not controlling their center of mass. Center of mass is a term I frequently use as a description of the tipping point. Gravity is always pulling down. Whether a person falls or not is dependent upon whether a person's center of mass is outside of the person's cone of stability. I individualize treatments based on the patient's presentation and abilities. Patients wear a harness and are secured into an overhead track. Our brains and our bodies learn by being challenged. If your Mom is unsteady, it often helps to provide challenges in a safe environment for her brain and body to relearn how to control her center of mass. As she masters a challenge, a new challenge is provided. I am able to determine if I can help generally within 4 visits. Also, I typically give 1-2 things to focus on at home for your Mom to practice, practice, practice what has been learned so it becomes habit. I have been amazed at how quickly an older adult's brain can learn and change. I definitely recommend having your Mom come to me for her unsteadiness. Your Mom doesn't need a referral to be seen by me.
Hopefully I have given you some things to think about to help you make a decision to help your Mom. If you are noticing unsteadiness and are worried, I recommend you take action. A fall can have serious complications. From my perspective, if a patient falls and recovers from that fall, it takes more visits to attain the desired results.