Preventing Falls for Parkinson's Patients
Minimizing and Preventing Falls
in Parkinson's Patients.
Parkinson's Disease (PD) patients have twice the risk of falling as their peers. These falls often impact their mobility and their overall quality of life. Some falls cause injuries ranging from minor cuts to head trauma or fractures and instill a fear of falling that paralyzes some patients.
Motor Symptoms such as stiffness or slowness of movement along with posture changes all increase the risk of falling for individuals with PD. Many times there is a loss of balance or change in their center of gravity causing them to fall. Every day activities such as standing up, bending down, turning sharply, dodging obstacles or even talking can cause people with PD to lose their balance. At times, tremors, freezing (the inability to initiate movement), leaning forward or a shuffling foot can create falls. At times, PD patients also have problems with blurry vision, depth perception or double vision making it difficult to walk and balance.
Some non-motor symptoms can also attribute to falls. Some of the medications for PD lower blood pressure when may cause lightheadedness. Often PD patients are taking four or more medications which increases the risk of falls and drug interactions. Constipation can at times cause a vasovagal (drop in heart rate) response due to straining resulting in dizziness and falls. Urinary incontinence and accidents or even urgency needs can create a rush resulting in a slip or trip. Sleep disturbances can also cause fatigue and exhaustion.
Some Parkinson' disease patients also have increased stress to life's events. At times, the ability to select, inhibit, organize and sequence related information, or the executive function, may be impaired in PD patients. The inability to concentrate or focus can increase susceptibility to falls.
Once a person falls, the person is twice a likely to fall again. So how can these falls be prevented? The first step is to talk with the patient's health care team including doctors, nurses and other specialists. The doctor can review medications, physical conditions, stress and other contributing factors and the risk for falls. The Berg Balance Scale can be used to evaluate balance. Physical therapy can work with PD patients to improve or correct their gait. Exercise plays an essential role in keeping a person with Parkinson’s disease healthy and maintaining his or her ability to participate in activities of daily living. Exercises challenging balance, stability and mobility are needed to prevent falls. Mental exercises focusing on attentiveness, concentration and focus on activity and movement may also be beneficial.
Lastly, adjusting the home can protect you or your loved one from a fall. Adequate lighting, contrasting wall colors, floor patterns, non-skid surfaces in the bathroom as well as safety grab bars can reduce the risk of falls. The use of transfer benches in the tub/shower can allow sitting and sliding into the shower vs climbing over the tub. Raised toilets and low beds can also minimize injuries when getting up and down. Some PD patients need canes, walkers, scooters or wheelchairs along with proper footwear.
If you need assistance or more information, please call ElderCare 4 Families at 502-244-8446.
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