This answer is simple – you can’t. I could just stop there, and you would be disappointed, but you would probably understand. Parkinson’s patients are going to fall. It is inevitable. But we can unpack this topic somewhat, and perhaps we can find some ways to prevent a few of the falls.
As I think back through our Parkinson’s journey, here are some reasons why my husband fell. Sometimes he leaned forward as he walked, getting off-balance, and his center of gravity moved out in front of his body. That caused him to fall forward. In last week’s post we named this “festination.” The only solution I found to that was to slow him down and stop him, allowing him to rock back onto his heels and bring that center of gravity back to horizontal. But he could never do that by himself. It took an outside force – ME!
Another cause of falling might surprise you. Sometimes he was standing still, and he just fell! Has that ever happened to your loved one? Isn’t that a strange thing? My theory is that when that happened to Carlton, it was because he did not shift his weight to one foot before stepping out with the other foot. (I believe this is part of executive functioning – something most of us do without even thinking.) The falling while standing still might be prevented if our loved one would hold onto something, but in our house, it happened most often in front of the refrigerator. Carlton seemed to want to carry something, but he couldn’t do that while walking.
But the biggest cause of falling in our house was when my husband was trying to get to the bathroom quickly. His feet just wouldn’t cooperate, and he fell forward – face first. We were so thankful that he never injured himself on any of those falls, other than the occasional scrape.
However, falling is not advisable! It can lead to broken bones, and a broken bone brings inconvenience and pain for everyone. So, we want to minimize the falling!
This means we might have to introduce devices to help with walking, which is not news to any of you. Some people begin with a tall walking stick. There are fun shapes available which make them seem less “medical”. Canes can even seem more fun when we paint or decorate them, and the ones with animal toppers can be conversation starters!
We can even make walkers interesting and entertaining by decorating them and making them colorful. The ones with seats and storage compartments are very handy when we need to wait in line somewhere.
Two reasons we sometimes opted for a wheelchair were that we could get places faster, and Carlton was not tired from walking when we arrived. When family members were around, they enjoyed helping to push him which was a huge help to me.
The last thing I want to mention is how to get our loved one up after a fall. It is important to have a gait belt if falls occur often in your home. Check out this link to see the kind we had. It worked well. You can also call for help from the fire department. They use the term “Lift and Assist” to help patients who have fallen. You can call 911 or any number you have for non-emergency help. It is usually free, but you may have to wait until they are available to come.
The bottom line is that falling can be dangerous, so we want to avoid falls as much as possible. However, they are inevitable with advanced Parkinson’s patients. We just work to make them as painless and less frequent as possible.
Thanks for reading and have a fall-free week ahead!