How to Help a Loved One with Vertigo

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Fri Jul 21 2023.

Woman leaning in garden.

Vertigo is one of the most common health problems affecting seniors. About 25% of people age 72 and older report that they regularly experience periods of imbalance or unsteadiness

Most cases of vertigo improve on their own with at-home treatment. But if your loved one feels dizzy several times a week, it might point to an underlying health problem. And, if they have mobility issues, poor balance can increase the risk of falls and broken bones. 

Dealing with vertigo can be a challenge, but there are various things you can do to help your loved one keep their balance. Here’s everything you need to know!

What is Vertigo?

Vertigo causes you to feel like the room is spinning. It can strike at any time and affect your loved one’s ability to stand up or move without losing their balance.

“Vertigo isn’t simply a feeling of dizziness,” says Josh Weight, PT, a sports rehabilitation specialist and physiotherapist at Gravity Physio Brookvale in Sydney, Australia. “Rather, it’s a distinct and intense sensation that the environment or oneself is spinning or moving.”

Remember when you were a kid and would spin around in circles for a while and then stop? It’s kind of like that, but the dizzy feeling persists. As a result, Weight says it “can be quite distressing, and may impact a person’s ability to perform daily activities.”

What Are the Symptoms of Vertigo?

Vertigo symptoms vary from person to person, but according to Weight, they commonly include:

  • A spinning or whirling sensation that’s mild to severe

  • Loss of balance and coordination

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Sweating or perspiration

  • Abnormal eye movements (nystagmus) 

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Feeling lightheaded or faint

“These symptoms can be intermittent, lasting for seconds to minutes, or they can persist for hours or days, depending on the cause.” 

What You’ll Need

Several items can reduce your loved one’s risk of vertigo-related falls and accidents. 

Weight recommends focusing on three things, in particular:

A) Improved Lighting. “Ensure that your home is well-lit, especially the hallways, stairways, and bathrooms,” Weight says. “Adequate lighting can help people with vertigo maintain better visual orientation and reduce the risk of tripping and falling.” 

B) Remove hazards. Clear all hallways and footpaths of items that pose a tripping hazard, including, loose rugs, electrical cords, or other objects that are low to the ground. In addition, arrange furniture in a way that provides clear paths and minimizes obstacles.

C) Install grab bars and handrails. “Install grab bars in the bathrooms, near toilets, showers, and tubs,” Weight says. “Additionally, consider adding handrails along staircases and in areas where additional support may be needed.” 

Steps to Helping a Loved One with Vertigo

Step 1: Visit the Doctor

Vertigo occurs for various reasons, so identifying the underlying cause is essential. 

Balance or equilibrium, is achieved through several different parts of the body, including the eyes, inner ears, and brain.

You might need to visit more than one doctor as a result, including your loved one’s primary care physician; an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist); and a neurologist. 

These specialists can order specific tests to pinpoint the source of imbalance, and make personalized treatment recommendations. 

Step 2: Create a Safe and Supportive Environment

We already touched on supplies earlier. And this is where those supplies come in. 

“Help your loved one create a clutter-free, well-lit, and obstacle-free living space to minimize the risk of falls or accidents,” Weight says. “Remove loose rugs or install non-slip mats, and ensure that hallways and stairways are well-lit.”

Step 3: Encourage Your Loved One to Use an Assistive Device

If your loved one’s vertigo is caused by age-related changes to the inner ear or a neurological disorder, like multiple sclerosis, certain assistive devices may help. 

“For example, canes or walkers can provide additional support during episodes of imbalance,” Weight says. “Consult with your loved one’s doctor to determine if an assistive device would be beneficial, as they can make personalized recommendations.”

Step 4: Make Diet Changes, If Needed

Some types of vertigo are caused by health problems, like high blood pressure and Meniere’s disease (a condition that causes excess fluid to collect inside the inner ear). 

Reducing your loved one’s salt intake can be beneficial if they have Meniere’s disease. Excess salt has been linked to fluid retention in the inner ear. It’s also good to cut back on caffeine. Drinks like coffee, soda, and black tea can exacerbate tinnitus (or ringing in the ears) and increase the risk of balance problems. 

Reducing your loved one’s intake of carbohydrates and fats might also be beneficial. One study published in the International Journal of Otolaryngology found that reducing fats and carbs and increasing fiber, successfully minimized harmful effects on the inner ear

Step 5: Practice Balance Improving Exercises

“Certain exercises can help improve balance and reduce the frequency and severity of vertigo episodes,” Weight says. “These exercises are often prescribed by physical therapists, and can include head and eye movements, balance exercises, and coordination drills.”

Make sure to work with a qualified healthcare professional, like a physical or occupational therapist. These experts can guide your loved one and make sure they perform the exercises correctly and safely.

Step 6: Encourage Rest and Stress Management

Vertigo episodes are physically and emotionally draining. If your loved one has them regularly, it’s important they don’t overdo it.

“Encourage your loved one to rest when needed and engage in stress-reducing activities such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and gentle yoga.” 

Step 7: Consider Bedroom Placement

Does your loved one have to climb stairs to get to their bedroom? If so, consider moving their living quarters to the ground floor. If your loved one doesn’t have to climb stairs to get to their room or use the toilet, they’re less likely to have an accident or slip and fall. 

Commonly Asked Questions

1) What causes vertigo?

Vertigo happens for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s due to age-related changes to the structures in the inner ear. Other times, it’s caused by underlying medical conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, neurological disease, or heart disease.

2) What is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)?

BPPV is one of the leading causes of vertigo in older adults. It can happen to people without a known underlying issue, but sometimes it can be caused by head injury, Meniere’s disease, or due to issues that come up after ear surgery.

“It occurs when tiny calcium crystals in the inner ear, known as otoliths, become dislodged and move into the fluid-filled canals,” Weight said. “BPPV is triggered by changes in head position, like turning over in or looking up and down.” 

3) How long does it take for vertigo to improve?

Vertigo is a complex medical condition that often requires a multi-disciplinary treatment approach. Weight emphasizes patience and dedication. 

“Encourage your loved one to follow their doctor’s recommendations and maintain regular communication with their healthcare team. With patience, understanding, and appropriate care, your loved one can find relief and improve their quality of life.”

4) What is the Home Epley Maneuver?

If you or your loved one has Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) you may have heard your healthcare provider talk about or even perform the Epley Maneuver. The Home Epley Maneuver is a series of body and head movements that are safe and easy to do on your bed in your own home. The movements are designed to bring the calcium crystals in the inner ear back where they belong, which can help improve BPPV symptoms. 

These are the steps to follow if you are having issues with your left ear. If you are having trouble with your right ear, you can simply reverse each of these steps. (Meaning if the step says to turn your head left, you would turn it right instead. Do this for every step.)

  1. Begin by sitting on your bed with a pillow behind you that will be under your shoulders when you lie back.

  2. Turn your head 45 degrees to the left (or to the right if the issue is with your right side.)

  3. Lie back onto the pillow quickly, without turning your head. Once you’re on the pillow and your head is reclined over it, wait here for 30 seconds. 

  4. Without raising your head, roll it 90 degrees to the right. Your head should now be 45 degrees in the other direction. Wait here for 30 seconds. 

  5. Turn your head and body 90 degrees to the right. You should be laying on your side and looking into the bed. If you feel dizziness here that is usually a sign that the maneuver is working. Wait here until the dizziness stops, then wait another 30 seconds.

  6. Keeping your chin tucked, sit up slowly, then slowly raise your head to look forward.

It’s important to remember that home remedies are not supposed to be a replacement for regular healthcare, and although this repositioning maneuver is safe to do at home, it’s best to speak to your healthcare provider first to see if it is right for your situation. 

Because this maneuver helps push the calcium crystals back to where they should be, you may lose your sense of balance while performing it. Consider having a loved one nearby to help you just in case.

Does Your Loved One Have Vertigo?

Helping a loved one with vertigo can be a real challenge, but you don’t have to do it alone. Our friendly Care Specialists regularly help caregivers by answering questions and making product recommendations. 

Whether you need help choosing grab bars or want advice on buying a no-slip mat, we can help! Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to We’re standing by and available 24/7. Get in touch today. 

Did you find this article helpful?Share it, print it or have it mailed to you!

Other Articles You May Like

Home Improvement: Upgrades and Home Renovations for Improved Senior Safety

Home renovations are an investment upfront, but in the grand scheme of things, these changes are often more affordable than long-term care at a nursing home or assisted living facility. In this blog, we’ll look at several senior-friendly upgrades.

Read More >

10 Best Bathroom Safety Products for Seniors of 2024

Caregivers and family members can help the seniors in their lives remain independent with some simple bathroom additions. Below are our picks for the top ten products to add to improve bathroom safety for seniors.

Read More >
Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.