Solutions for weakness, balance problems and general health issues include:
Talking with health professionals
Getting help for frequent pain
Having medications reviewed
Getting devices that help with walking
Getting supportive, non-slip footwear
Talking With Health Professionals
Make sure that the older adult sees their primary care professional at least once a year. This helps the health professional know what's "normal" for the older adult, and gives the older adult time to ask questions.
If you or the older adult notices possible health issues, contact their health professional. Try to collect as much information as you can to share during the appointment, including:
When the issue started
How often it happens
What makes it better or worse
If it's changed over time
If there are patterns, like it's worse in the morning or after meals
How it affects the older adult
If other changes happened at the same time
Only health professionals can determine what's causing the older adult's problems.
Getting Help for Frequent Pain
Pain is not a normal part of aging. Having frequent pain increases the risk of falling.
If the older adult has frequent pain or physical discomfort, ask their health professional how the pain can be treated. Ask whether there are activities the older adult should avoid. Ask if there are exercises, therapy or other treatments that could help. If the older adult isn't seeing a physical therapist, ask the health professional to refer the older adult to one.
If the older adult is prescribed pain medications, ask whether the medications might cause dizziness or weakness. Ask how the older adult can avoid falls while taking the medications.
Having Medications Reviewed
Ask a pharmacist or other health professional to review all the older adult's medications. Reviews are especially important if the older adult has prescriptions from multiple health professionals or takes 4 or more medications.
For a thorough medication review:
Bring all the medications, prescription and over-the-counter, that the older adult takes.
Ask how and when the older adult takes each medication.
Ask the health professional what each medication is for.
Ask the health professional what side effects each medication might have.
Ask if the older adult has any problems, like side effects, trouble taking medications as directed or difficulty swallowing pills.
If the older adult has any symptoms that could be due to side effects or drug interactions, contact the older adult's health professional.
Encourage the older adult to fill all prescriptions at the same pharmacy. This makes it easier for the pharmacist to help the older adult organize and schedule their medications and avoid drug interactions.
If the older adult has trouble remembering when to take medications, it can help to:
Use a calendar or chart to mark when to take medications.
Set electronic or telephone reminders or alarms.
Use a pill box.
Use an electronic pill dispensing system, which combines a pill box with a clock and uses lights and/or sounds as medication reminders.
Getting Devices That Help With Walking
If the older adult already uses an assistive device, like a cane or walker, ask if they had help finding one that fits their size and needs. Ask if the older adult had training on how to use it. If not, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, or other health professionals can help.
If the older adult is interested in getting a device, read the information in this app to learn how devices can help with tasks and how to pick the right device.
Getting supportive, non-slip footwear
Look for shoes with flat, non-skid soles, good heel support, room for the toes and a cushioned arch.
When buying shoes, make sure both of the older adult's feet are measured. Shoe sizes can change, and one foot might be larger than the other. Shoes with laces or Velcro straps can adjust to small changes in foot size.
When trying on shoes, encourage the older adult put both on, stand up and walk around to make sure they fit well, provide support and are comfortable.
Occasionally check the soles on the older adult's shoes, especially on shoes that are worn a lot. Replace shoes when the tread on the sole is wearing out.
Encourage the older adult to take care of their feet by:
Checking for cuts, blisters or other irritations when they wash their feet each day
Trimming toenails regularly
Making sure feet are dry before putting on shoes
Wearing clean socks
If the older adult has trouble reaching or seeing their feet, ask if long-handled sponges or toenail trimmers would help. It can also help to sit down and put one foot on a footrest or footstool.