How do I help my mother get over or cope with her fear of falling?

1 answer | Last updated: Nov 29, 2016
Hopeful asked...

My mother had a hemmorage-stroke 7 yrs ago. She had made remarkable progress until two weeks ago when she had a couple of days with vertigo (history of vertigo pre-stroke) related to allergy issues. Since then she has been filled with anxiety about walking, fears falling, and will not put all her weight on the right side (affected)...She is very social and is now afraid to go back to walking at her mall. She does use a walker 24/7. Please tell me how can I help her balance better with less panic. Is it a matter of practice...a circular problem when she is so fearful?

Expert Answers

James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.

Sorry to hear about your mother's setback. I think there are a few avenues to pursue in her case. First, it's important to make sure that her vertigo is not more serious or treatable than an "allergy." A neurologist may be able to identify another cause such as lack of blood flow to the base of the brain, or a new stroke. She should also see an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist), who can see if she has a treatable condition of the inner ear, such as a crystal in the inner ear or Menier's Disease.

Second, I always recommend that patients suffering from vertigo seek out the help of a physical or occupational therapist who specializes in vertigo. They may be able to help your mother re-train her sense of equilibrium, or help with physical coping mechanisms.

Finally, your mother may benefit from medication, such as a low-dose benzodiazepine medication like Valium. These medicines could help improve her sense of vertigo, while at the same time soothing her panic about falling.