Being off-balance or dizzy is a scary feeling, and it is made all the more frustrating because it is an invisible affliction. We often hear from our patients that they feel like people either don’t believe that they are struggling, or don’t understand the extent to which they are suffering. And we get it! You have visual proof when someone has broken their arm or undergone surgery, it’s hard to sympathize with someone who looks fine but is acting in ways that you don’t understand. It’s also incredibly difficult to have a loved one in pain and to feel like you can’t help them.
First thing’s first: think about how often you use your balance skills. Your mind probably goes to when you were balancing on that curb, or when you were standing on top of a step stool. What about when you got up to walk across the room? Or tried to stand in line at the bank? Or pushing a grocery cart at your local store? Or when you got up last night to go to the bathroom? Balance affects almost every moment of every day, so feeling off balance affects almost every moment as well.
Dizziness likewise affects every facet of life. Think about a time when you were really dizzy. Maybe you had just played a game where you spun around in circles, or you had just gotten off of a boat and felt like you were still on the water, or maybe you’ve been drunk. Now imagine having to feel that way while walking down the aisles at the grocery store, or if you really needed to get to the bathroom.
No one wants to be dizzy all of the time, it’s uncomfortable and anxiety provoking. Your dizzy or unbalanced loved one may not know how to ask for help, so here are some strategies that you can help them with:
- Remind them to stand with their feet about hip’s width apart.
- Ask them if they have any grounding techniques they could try to utilize.
- Help them plan out how to approach provocative situations. For example: try not to spend an hour wandering around the grocery store, plan out 2-5 items to get and where in the store those items will be and then exit the store quickly.
- Help them with their home exercises, take an active role by reminding them to do their exercises and spotting them on the really difficult ones.
- Have a plan on what helps your loved one so that when they are getting overwhelmed you don’t have to ask them a lot of questions. Make a plan for what to do (does it help if they sit down? Do they have a dark space to retreat to or a blank wall to look at? Does it help to have a glass of water?) and follow the protocol when needed.
- Have an outlet for your own frustrations, whether it’s a paid professional or a trusted friend. It won’t always be easy to be the support system for a loved one, so make sure that you are also being supported mentally and emotionally.
We are always here to help. Feel free to come with your loved one during their PT session (with your loved one’s permission). Talk to your clinician at 360 Balance & Dizziness to come up with more ways to help your specific loved one in their time of need.