Statistically, multiple myeloma is more prevalent in the older population. Age alone brings about many changes in health. A diagnosis and treatment of myeloma can intensify these and bring about even more challenges including peripheral neuropathy, fatigue, and bone lesions, often resulting in complex and difficult orthopedic challenges. These side effects and others can increase the risk of falls or other injuries. Because of the impact of myeloma on bone health, it is critical that individuals living with myeloma maintain good balance and avoid any potential for falls.
This is the first in a series of articles from guest contributor, Myeloma Coach, and physical therapist Beth Travis, PT, MS, Cert MDT. Continue reading to learn more from Beth about the importance of good balance, exercises to improve your balance, and improvements you can make to your home to prevent falls.
Good balance is key to aging safely and should be a top priority. Falls are a leading cause of injury for the elderly and so expensive to our health system. The most important concern for your loved one is staying healthy avoiding the sprain, strains, bruises, fractures and complications that can come with falls. The Journal of the American Geriatric Society published an article in March of 2018 estimating the cost of falls was 50 billion dollars for data collected in 2015. Please see the detail at this link. Medicine has been slow to convince insurance companies of the value of fall prevention. It makes sense that fall prevention is a great way to increase the quality of life and reduce costs for the elderly. The CDC collects this data and had put together an excellent piece on fall prevention that you can view here.
The beautiful thing about balance is that it can, in most cases, be improved with little cost and effort. We, physical therapists, love exercise to retrain for balance. The elderly do need support for safe balance training so they can push their balance to a higher level without fear. That often involves a stronger trained support person to guard/protect them during training. Your local Physical Therapist can teach this to you.
Otago Exercise Programs
My personal favorite is the free program called the Otago Program Exercise program. This is best delivered by accredited exercise instructors who had been trained to conduct this exercise program by a licensed PT. You can get your free copy here.
In addition to exercise, there are other things you can do for preventing a fall. Improving the home environment by reducing clutter and getting rid of throw rugs is helpful. Moving electric cords for safety and adding better foot ware like a rubber sole lace up shoe to improve stability. Adding safety grab bars near the toilet and shower areas are always a plus. An anti-slip mat or shower chair can improve safety in the bathroom during bathing. Consider improving the lighting in your home with brighter bulbs. Your physician can arrange for a physical or occupational therapist to perform a full home evaluation and help you with this. Other key elements to discuss with your physician are reviewing medications, vitamin D and calcium supplements for bone strengthening and ways to improve poor vision. All these factors can make a big difference and keep you safely on your feet.
Beth shares her knowledge and experience in myeloma as a Myeloma Coach. If you would like to personally connect with another living with myeloma or a myeloma caregiver, consider working with a Coach. The Myeloma Coach program is a free program offered by the HealthTree Foundation to offer personalized one on one support. Myeloma Coaches have a variety of experiences to share and can connect by phone, email, video chat or in person.
If you are living with or caring for someone with myeloma, and would like to share your time and expertise, consider becoming a Coach. Initial and ongoing training and support is provided. Give back to the myeloma community by volunteering as a Myeloma Coach.
about the author
Beth is a Licensed Physical Therapist that truly believes exercise is the best medicine but not the only medicine. Mother of two, a myeloma patient and advocate with a love of learning, healthy lifestyles and food adventures.