Managing Vertigo in Seniors
If your parent has been complaining about the room spinning or feeling unsteady on her feet, she might be suffering from vertigo. Vertigo is a symptom of various things that could be occurring in a person’s body and causes someone to feel dizzy and off-balance while having a sensation that the room is spinning around. It can be a bit frightening the first time it happens, but vertigo is generally not serious.
Vertigo tends to occur more often in women and those who are over 65. If you are caring for an elderly parent, she might find herself experiencing vertigo at some point because 40% of the population will get a spell of it occasionally. Most attacks only last a few seconds or minutes and are often compared to motion sickness, where the room seems to be rocking, spinning, or tilting.
Some common vertigo causes can be:
- Migraine headaches.
- Some medications.
- Prolonged bed rest.
- Head injuries.
- Shingles in or near the ear.
- Peri lymphatic fistula (when inner ear fluid leaks into the middle ear).
- Low blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension) – a condition in which blood pressure decreases when a person stands up.
- Ataxia, or muscle weakness.
- Otosclerosis (a bone growth problem affecting the middle ear).
- Brain disease.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS).
- Acoustic neuroma.
If your parent is suffering from consistent vertigo, finding the cause of this nauseating symptom will be very important. There will be several tests your parent’s doctor can do to help determine the exact cause.
While caring for an elderly loved one, one of the biggest concerns may be your loved one stumbling and falling when vertigo sets in. It may be beneficial to hire an elder care provider to be on hand to assist your parent in household chores when vertigo sets in or help your parent traverse up and down the stairs, and even across the room when the vertigo is strong.
There are also several precautionary steps your parent can take to prevent or lessen the onset of vertigo.
- Your parent should take her time standing up, turning her head, and making any other movements that may trigger vertigo (such as looking up quickly). An elder care provider can help her stand up slowly if vertigo sets in.
- When vertigo sets in, sitting down as soon as she feels dizzy will help reduce the risk of falling. She should grab the elbow of someone who is around and have them walk her to the nearest seat and see if she can wait out the vertigo attack.
- Sleep with her head elevated by two pillows. Some vertigo attacks are triggered when lying prone in bed and can make getting out of bed difficult. If your parent still lives alone, even if she has an elder care provider come by during the day, she’ll need to develop techniques to get out of bed safely in the morning. The two pillow trick may prevent the vertigo from even setting in.
- If something needs to be picked up, encourage your parent to squat to pick it up instead of bending over.