Gait Disorders in Older Adults: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions

gait disorders
Gait disorders are common in aging, but, with early intervention, older adults can maintain mobility and independence.

Most people don’t think twice about the mechanics of walking. As people age, however, gait and balance can change and pose some significant risks to a person’s health. Gait problems are common in aging for a variety of reasons, and it is important to understand and address these issues early on in order to prevent falls.

What Are Some Common Causes of Gait Disorders?

Gait disorders can arise for a number of reasons related to aging or illness. Some common causes include:

  • Joint pain from arthritis or other illness
  • Sore feet caused by sores, ingrown nails, calluses, etc.
  • Nerve damage, such as diabetic neuropathy
  • Broken bones, sprains, or other injuries
  • Vision problems
  • Inner ear infection

People age 60 and over are at a higher risk for gait disorders. That risk is even greater for those who have experienced an injury or have a chronic condition that affects the joints, bones, brain, or muscles. That means that older adults who have common conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and dementia have a higher chance of developing gait issues.

What Are Some Symptoms of a Gait Disorder?

Symptoms of a gait disorder can vary depending on what is causing the issue. If you have noticed changes in the way an older loved one walks, be on the lookout for the following symptoms of a gait issue:

  • Shuffling or dragging feet
  • Walking with the head bent toward the ground
  • Waddling or swaying with each step
  • Muscle or joint stiffness when walking
  • Tottering or appearing off balance while walking
  • Experiencing pain while walking

If you suspect a loved one has gait issues, it is important to schedule a physical. A physician can check the person’s muscle strength and tone. Vision, blood pressure, balance, and range of motion should also be assessed. If an injury is suspected, x-rays and other imaging can also help with the diagnosis.

For those whose gait issues are related to an illness or condition such as arthritis or Parkinson’s, medications may help the person walk more steadily or with less pain. Use of assistive devices such as canes or walkers can also help make it easier and safer for people with gait issues to get around. Physical therapy may be recommended for those who need to improve flexibility, muscle strength, or balance.

At Nightingale Homecare, we understand how challenging living with a gait disorder can be. That is why we developed GaitWays Home Therapy. The GaitWays program is designed to help get individuals on their feet and moving with greater ease. Our licensed physical and occupational therapists develop exercise and training programs to help meet each person’s unique needs, including increasing balance and strength, heal injuries, improving range of motion, and more all from the comfort of home. Our experienced therapists provide support in treating a number of conditions including:

  • Age-related musculoskeletal changes
  • Orthopedic issues
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Balance conditions
  • Head trauma
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Recovery from falls
  • Foot problems and surgery
  • Neuropathic conditions
  • And much more

Our team can also provide an in-depth home safety evaluation and fall assessment to ensure that a loved one is as safe and secure as possible in the home.

If you have a loved one who could benefit from our GaitWays Home Therapy program or other in-home care services, we would love to talk to you about the many ways we can help. Give us a call at 602-926-1157 or contact us online for more information.