For tips on how to reduce you risk of falls, read the Consumer Reports article here: 7 Tips to Improve Balance
When my son was very young — 3 or 4 years old — he was in child care. And one day I went to pick him up, and the woman who runs the child care center said they had gone rollerskating that day.
So I asked my son what he though about rollerskating, and he said, “Roller skates help us fall down.”
I could definitely relate to that. I’ve never had a good sense of balance. If I’m on roller skates or rollerblades, I’m pretty wobbly. But if you fall down, you laugh and you get back up.
However, when someone is diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, balance stops being a humorous subject, and starts to get really serious. Balance can be a major people with MCI, and that’s what I want to talk about today.
Hi, I’m Tony Dearing of GoCogno.com, the website for people with mild cognitive impairment.
When people are living with MCI, they go through so many changes, and they have so many struggles, and they wonder, do other people with MCI experience this? Or am I the only one?
For instance, I’m in a private Facebook group for people with MCI, and recently someone asked: “Does anyone else have balance problems with MCI?”
The person described getting back from a long walk, tripping on the stairs, and then when she tried to hang her coat up, she fell into the coats and ended up on the floor with her head in a cupboard. Fortunately, she wasn’t hurt.
But right away, others jumped in to say, yes, they were having balance problems too.
“Lately off and on, I lose my balance and stumble.”
“Yes! I’ve had major balance problems. Lots of falls, lots of weird come-and-go stuff with balance. Just last night I was so off balance I didn’t think I could stay on my feet.”
So no, you’re not alone. In fact, problems with balance or just walking — what researchers call “gait” — are so common in people with mild cognitive impairment that some scientists are looking at tests that measure changes in gait or balances as a way to diagnose MCI.
A while ago, a woman contacted me to ask about the balance problems her husband was having. She wanted to know, what’s going on with him?
There’s hasn’t been a ton of research on this question, but the little bit of research that’s been done points to a couple of things.
First of all, it does appear that people with MCI have trouble processing visual information. And visual information is important to balance. So if you’re not processing what you’re seeing, or processing it more slowly, that can throw your balance off.
There’s also has been some research showing that people with MCI appear to have less motor control over their arms or their legs, which again, could potentially contribute to falls.
Unfortunately, what we don’t have right now is a way to alleviate that problem in people with MCI. So it’s really more about finding ways to cope with balance problems, and reduce your risk of falls.
One thing we know is that you’re more likely to lose your balance when you’re tired, and that’s something that came in the MCI group.
One woman said: “It seems to happen when I am tired or stressed. Is that the case with you?”
And the woman who fell replied, “Yes, I was really tired on Monday when it happened.”
Beyond that, there is a lot of good information out there on how to deal with balance issues. The first thing, of course, is to talk to your doctor about it. That’s always No. 1.
But if you’re looking for other suggestions, you might want to check out an article from Consumers Reports, titled “7 Tips to Improve Balance.” You can read it here.
It talks about everything from checking your medications and the kind of shoes you wear to removing tripping hazards in your home and doing exercises to improve balance and leg strength.
How about you? Is MCI helping you fall down, and is there anything you’ve found you can do to cope with that? If so, tell us about it. Leave a comments below so others can benefit from what you’ve learned.
I’d love to hear from you, and I look forward to seeing you again next week. Until then, as always, be kind to your mind.