Treating Balance Disorders: Post-Acute Care for the Elderly

What is a balance disorder?

Ever feel dizzy or unsteady on your feet, as if you are spinning or even floating even though you are standing in one place or lying down? It could be a balance disorder after post-acute injury. Poor balance can be caused by a few different things. As a skilled nursing facility, South Coast Post Acute can help!

The skilled nurses at our post-acute rehabilitation center understand how disorders can affect your health. Health conditions, medications or an inner ear issue may be the root cause of certain balance disorders. Considering our sense of balance is essential to our everyday activities and lifestyle, it is best that you learn all you can to help educate yourself on the causes, treatments, and management of this disorder and solutions in post-acute care. Read on to learn more.

The rehabilitation nurses at South Coast Post Acute can work with you to understand the needs of post-acute care after an injury. There is more to post-acute medical care. There are three parts to your ear anatomy, the outer ear or ear canal, the middle ear including your eardrum for hearing, and your inner ear containing the semicircular canals and vestibule for balance. Your inner ear controls your sense of equilibrium, which is a maze-like structure called the labyrinth made up of soft tissue and small bones. The Vestibular System, a medical term to describe all parts of the inner ear, is a complex arrangement of canals and organs in the ear which is connected to balance. The vestibular system works alongside the sensorimotor systems of the body including the visual and skeletal systems to coordinate body position whether it is resting or in motion. Like when alerting the brain when your head moves or rotates such as when you nod your head up and down or look from left to right.

What are the symptoms and causes of poor balance?

Your balance after a post-acute injury may be impaired if you frequently feel uneasy on your feet as if the room is spinning, stagger when you try to walk, or wobble and fall when standing up from a seated position. Balance problems after post-acute rehab can usually be linked to specific signs and symptoms. 

Causes of balance disorders can be anywhere from a viral or bacterial infection in the ear to a head injury due to a concussion but post-acute rehabilitation helps. Other causes can be from disorders that bring about poor blood circulation, low blood pressure or side effects from medications.  A few indications of common balance disorders and common conditions associated with the symptoms are as follows:

  • Dizziness:
      • Hyperventilation or psychiatric disorders: provoked by anxiety, depression or other psychiatric disorders can cause dizziness.
      • Medications: side effects of medication can lead to balance problems or unsteadiness
      • Vestibular issues: Sensation of floating or a heavy head caused by irregularities in your inner ear.
  • Vertigo – a typical spinning sensation can relate to many conditions, including:
      • Acoustic neuroma: a slow-growing, benign tumor that develops on a nerve affecting hearing and balance.
      • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV): caused by the buildup and dislodging of calcium crystals in your inner ear.
      • Head Injury
      • Motion Sickness
      • Meniere’s disease: a rare disease, where causes aren’t fully known, that cause fluctuating hearing loss, buzzing or ringing and fullness in your ear.
      • Migraine: Sensitivity to motion caused by a migraine headache.
      • Ramsay Hunt syndrome (herpes zoster oticus): a shingles-like infection affecting the facial, auditory and vestibular nerves in the ears.
      • Vestibular neuritis: caused by a virus, this inflammatory disorder affects the nerves for balance in your inner ear.
  • Lightheadedness or feeling faint can be associated with:
      • Cardiovascular disease: caused by a narrowed or blocked blood vessels decreasing blood volume causing abnormal heart rhythms.
      • Orthostatic hypotension (postural hypotension): as when one stands or sits up too quickly causing a significant drop in blood pressure.
  • Loss of Balance or being unsteady while walking can result from:
    • Certain neurological conditions: including cervical spondylosis or Parkinson’s disease
    • Joint, muscle or vision problems: Difficulties with eyesight or weakness in muscles or joints can contribute to loss of balance or unsteadiness.
    • Medications: side effects of medication can lead to balance problems or unsteadiness
    • Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage in your legs): leading to difficulties in walking.
    • Vestibular issues: Sensation of floating or a heavy head caused by irregularities in your inner ear.

Diagnosis and Tests of a balance disorder.

It can be common to get a dizzy spell every now and again, but being “dizzy” can mean something different to varying people after post-acute care. For some, it may be a short-lived sensation of spinning, while for others it is a continuous and scary feeling that doesn’t quit quickly. Experiencing a significant episode serious enough to seek post-acute medical treatment is something that experts in the post-acute space believe that more than 4 out of 10 Americans may experience.

There are many potential causes to balance disorders, so getting a clear post-acute  diagnosis can be challenging. See your primary care physician first, they can help you evaluate your symptoms through a detailed post-acute medical history and recommend the next steps in post-acute rehab. Your health care provider or post-acute medical professional will ask you many questions about the medicines you take, including both over-the-counter products and prescriptions. Check-in with your post-acute doctor to see if any of your medications might increase your risk of falling currently or if there is a substitution they can prescribe. Alternative therapy such as naturopathic supplements or assistive devices may also be something to look into depending on your post-acute doctor’s recommendations or your symptoms.

Seeing a post-acute specialist, such as an otolaryngologist, can help steer you in the right direction to help evaluate your balance issues. These post-acute physicians offer treatment specializing in ear, nose and throat complications. The specialist may request additional post-acute testing to assess the cause and extent of the issues you are having depending on your health status and severity of your symptoms. Testing such as a hearing exam, a blood test, an electronystagmogram test which records eye movements, or imaging of your head and brain may be ordered. Other tests, such as a posturography measures how your post-acute body moves in response to a patterned screed in conjunction with the movement of a specialized platform that shifts back and forth.

Care and treatment of balance disorders.

If treating your post-acute balance symptoms can be determined as a post-acute medical condition or from adverse medications, your doctor will treat the condition or suggest an alternative medication to treat the problems first and foremost. Some post-acute treatments may be treated in a 15-min office procedure, or as easy as taking some antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Wearing pressure socks can help to prevent blood pooling in your feet and legs in a sudden low-pressure diagnosis. Others may be more involved and must be reviewed by your post-acute provider so they are treated properly.

Depending on your post-acute diagnosis or what the condition is that is causing your symptoms your doctor may prescribe post-acute assistive devices such as canes, walkers or wheelchairs that can help you with your walking or activity. Corrective devices for hearing or vision may also be prescribed to help reduce symptoms of dizziness and disequilibrium. 

Lifestyle and management of poor balance.

There are simple ways that you can reduce the impact you may have on your balance problems during post-acute care. With your doctors’ endorsement, a series of simple post-acute movements can be done to strengthen your muscles and joints. With an individualized post-acute treatment plan, certain post-acute therapies can be used that combines head, neck, and eye exercises to decrease dizziness and nausea. 

A recommendation to change your diet may also be a good idea. Some changes in diet can be helpful in reducing your dizziness and balance problems in post-acute care. It is important to keep a healthy diet, drink plenty of fluids, and get enough vitamins (especially Vitamin D) into your dietary regimen. Limiting or reducing certain foods that interact with your medications or body chemistry is a good suggestion. Reducing your salt intake or eliminating alcohol or caffeine can have dramatic effects on your overall post-acute health. Not smoking may also help. 

You may also need to change how you handle your post-acute daily activities that increase your risk of falling and injury. Especially those that may be especially hazardous like phasing out your driving use. Not walking up or downstairs or using the bathroom alone may be the easiest way to eliminate the danger of putting yourself in those high-risk post-acute scenarios.

Although the goal is to get you back to your old self, some people with balance disorders of post-acute injury may not be able to fully heal from the post-acute condition and will need to learn to cope with the issue daily. To reduce your risk of post-acute injury wear low-heeled shoes when walking outdoors or a can to better stabilize you. Avoid walking alone or in the dark. If you need to, install handrails at home and inspect them periodically for proper installation and to make sure they continue to be safe and secure. Sit or lie down immediately if you feel dizzy, avoid things that will make the sensations worse, move slowly and don’t change your head position, and rest your eyes by staying away from bright lights. And of course, get better!

South Coast Post Acute is a private healthcare community providing post-acute rehabilitative, memory and long-term care health services. For more than 40 years, we’ve provided patients with a combination of world-class treatment and exceptional care. We deliver specialized, quality care with compassion and spirit. We treat patients like family. We believe the true power of healing lies not only in the tools and knowledge of medicine but also in the hearts of people. It is our mission to deliver an unparalleled passion and commitment to ensuring our patients receive exceptional, compassionate care; every time, every touch. South Coast Post Acute is the post-acute community of choice in Southern California.

 

Real People. Remarkable Care. South Coast Post Acute.

By |2019-08-16T10:53:18-08:00August 14th, 2019|Post-Acute Care, walking assistance|0 Comments