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Improving balance to facilitate safer bathing

25 August 2016

In later life we may start to notice we are unable to do certain things as quickly, efficiently and safely as we once could. Not only does this affect us psychically, but also mentally, as frustration towards certain situations may leave us feeling helpless and vulnerable.

Bathing is one area in particular that suffers greatly with age. The inability to independently bathe or shower as a result of not being able to or too afraid to undertake this once seamless task can become a huge burden on our lives.

More often than not the problem is ‘bath’ orientated as a result of not being able to get in or out of the existing due to the upper body strength required to pull one’s self out of the water. Commonly this obstacle can be overcome with a bathroom conversions, adaptation or alteration of certain fixtures and fittings like the installation of a wet floor shower, level access shower or easy access bath.

Furthermore the fear and risk of potential slips, trips and falls in this often wet environment can be an added pressure as to why those of a more senior age may avoid bathing. The ability to balance and steady one’s self often deteriorates with age due to a number of different reasons, all of which can be worked upon and improved to allow for even weight distribution and a better sense of gravity.

Before we address how we can improve balance to improve life and facilitate safer bathing it is important to understand what influences its determination. With that we can than pinpoint which of the 8 core issues are affecting a person’s balance and address it with specific recommendations.

1) Vision

Over the years our eyes see a lot. They work continuously for every waking minute of every day and are exposed to lots of new, weird and wonderful things. With that it should come as no real surprise that, like all overworked things in life, at some point the usage rates will suffer and as a result your sight may start to deteriorate.

More often than not our ability to focus and see things clearly, diminishes, as does our depth perception, night vision and sensitivity to contrast. Eye problems can impair, blur or distort vision which in turn compromises balance. In this instance it is important to get your eye checked regularly, the sooner a problem is identified the sooner a solution may be found which could help curb further deterioration or at least slow it down helping to improve balance and facilitate safer bathing.


2) Posture

Sometimes those of a more senior age may appear to ‘hunch’ forward which is not normally a result of having bad posture all there life but often an underlying health condition which then influences other external factors such as balance.

It is important if signs start to emerge where you are struggling to stand straight / upright to get yourself to a doctor to get checked out. Like all things in life the sooner they are addressed the easier they are to correct and/or deal with, minor deterioration can be rectified whereas major may never fully recover.


3) Reaction

As we age, our brain connections break down, slowing up our physical response times. This affects our balance as our reaction time to correct a slight sway or stumble is not responsive enough to autocorrect which sometimes results in a slip, trip or fall.

There are a number of things we can do to train and exercise our reactive muscles to help improve balance which we will move onto later is this article.


4) Medication

Unfortunately many a medication comes with a caution statement warning of possible side effects, dizziness being a high contender on that list which of course effects our balance. Now although we are not suggesting stopping taking such medication we do encourage you to make your doctor or GP aware of these sides’ effects as alternative prescriptions maybe provided.

Furthermore general exercises which help improve balance can help overcome downfalls of certain medication which we will provide a full comprehensive list of later.


5) Low blood pressure

Some people suffer from naturally low blood pressure which more often than not has no effect on daily lives and causes no problems whatsoever. However for those whose bloody pressure is generally average may suffer from dizziness, unsteadiness and fainting if blood pressure gets too low.

Commonly the causes of a drop in blood pressure include time of day, age, food intake, temperature and exercise. The NHS recommend having your blood pressure taken yearly to identify any normalities or anomalies however there are many a thing you can do to steady and maintain a good level of pressure. Due to the science behind calculating blood pressure, i.e. how well your body pumps blood around your body, it is important to exercise and stay active, tips for this will be covered shortly.


6) Weak muscles

Muscle mass and strength decreases with age, sometimes making it difficult to walk as a result of weaker leg and hip muscles. This often results in a ‘shuffling’ type movement rather than fully elevating one leg in front of the other to walk which could of course effect our balance and increasing the chances of stumbling.

Again, regular exercise is the main way to improve weakening muscles as light repetitive movement will keep the muscles working hard and maintain mass and strength.


7) Underlying health conditions

A big influencer on poor balance is underlying health conditions, conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or the after effects of a stroke. Unfortunately not a lot can be done to help improve any associated side effects, which are often prolonged and damaged as a result, however exercising affected muscles should help keep blood flowing around the body and keep any balance issues at bay.

8) Lack of activity

Mentioned throughout the above article, lack of exercise and movement in later life is one of the main reasons why our balance deteriorates at such a rapid rate. In near enough all of the above 7 reasons why by introducing light exercise which focuses on improving balance properties will help improve life and facilitate safer bathing as a result of new found confidence in completing certain tasks.

With that said below is an exercise routine we encourage you to incorporate into your life. By doing so we are confident that, within time, your balance will improve, giving you a new lease on life.


Note*

A sturdy chair with a back rest and suitable, comfortable, non-slip shoes will be required.

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Exercise 1‘shoulder shift’

Start position: Sit up straight in your chair, lifting your chest while keeping your shoulders down and back. Brace your abdominal muscles and bring your elbows up next to you mid waste with your forearms out straight. Turn your palms placing them together.

Movement: While exhaling, roll your shoulders further down and back, away from your ears. Turn your palms out so your hands are flat and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 seconds before slowly return to the starting position.

Sets: 3

Reps: 5

Hold time: 5 seconds

Resting time: 30 seconds (in-between sets)

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Exercise 2‘one legger’

Start position: Stand up right behind your chair with both hands gently resting on the top of the chairs back rest. Keep your feet slightly apart with your toes facing forward and all touch points firmly on the floor.

Movement: Deep breathe in and exhale slowly while lifting one leg slightly off the ground in a sideways elevation movement. Hold for 10 seconds and return to the floor. Ensure balance is sturdy and repeat with the other leg before resting for 30 seconds.

Sets: 3 (alternating legs – 1 set = both legs)

Reps: N/A

Hold time: 10 seconds

Resting time: 30 seconds (in-between sets)

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Exercise 3‘knee march’

Start position: Stand up right behind your chair, turn a 90 degree left so the right side of your body is parallel to the back of the chair. Gently rest your right hand on the top of the chairs back rest. Keep your feet slightly apart with your toes facing forward and all touch points firmly on the floor.

Movement: Deep breathe in and exhale slowly while lifting your right knee to a 90 degree angle. Hold for 5 seconds and return to the floor. Ensure balance is sturdy before turning 180 degree to the right so your left side is now parallel to the back of the chair and repeat with your leg before resting for 30 seconds.

Sets: 3 (alternating knees – 1 set = both knees)

Reps: N/A

Hold time: 5 seconds

Resting time: 30 seconds (in-between sets)

MoreAbility*, part of the Passmore Group, is Yorkshires leading and most experienced bath & shower room specialist for all types of stylish, safe & practical and bespoke solutions. Offering a fully project managed design & installation service we pride ourselves on meeting individual wants, needs and aspirational requirements for both the public & private sector.

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