Gait is one of the most affected motor characteristics of Parkinson’s disease. While Parkinson’s disease affects each person differently, falls are a common challenge to address. Sometimes your mind moves faster than your legs, and you may have already mentally turned the corner while your foot is trying to keep up. The Parkinsonian gait is characterized by small shuffling steps and a general slowness. For those living with Parkinson’s, reduced stride length and walking speed are common, as well as difficulty starting, and difficulty stopping after starting. Poor balance and unstable posture can also lead to increased falls. It is important to always report these changes to your physician.
There are several things you can do to be proactive around the house in an attempt to reduce falls and the subsequent impact, including:
- Pause and get your balance before you begin to move. Hold on to something until you feel steady, and then start forward motion.
- Physical therapy programs can offer exercises to help maintain balance and movement.
- Seek out a support group in your local community. You can share success strategies with others diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
- Consider mobility equipment to help keep you safe. With all the choices on the market, you can find something that fits your lifestyle.
- Create a clear walking path, and rearrange furniture if necessary. You can also place furniture in strategic places to provide a place to hold onto if you lose your balance.
- Remove throw rugs and narrow carpet runners. These can create an edge that may cause you to trip or catch your foot.
- Shoes matter. Pay attention to your footwear. Socks may be too slippery but heavy soles may catch or make it harder to lift your foot. See a specialist to get the right pair of shoes.
- Install grab bars or secure rails placed in strategic places. These allow for increased balance and something to safely grab for support.
- Make sure you have adequate lighting, especially at night.
- Keep the products you use on a routine basis between eye and waist level. You don’t want to have to bend down or reach up to get an item. There is no need to create unnecessary risk.
- Place reflective tape on steps to help with depth perception.
- Consider an emergency alert button. If you do have a fall, these aids provide you with a way to call for help. Do not assume you can get to a phone.
Symptoms related to Parkinson’s can impact your gait and progress over time. Recognize changes that you experience and put safety measures in place before you need them. Create a safety net in your environment to enable you to remain as independent as possible. If you are looking for the best senior home care in Wilmington and throughout North Carolina then you should reach out CaregiverNC, North Carolina’s ONLY Accredited Caregiver Registry.
If you are in need of specific recommendations for your home, find a certified aging-in-place specialist, Parkinson’s specialty clinic or Aging Life Care™ Manager who can help you assess your home environment and provide you with additional feedback and resources.
Amy Natt, an Aging Life CareTM Professional, certified senior advisor and CEO of Aging Outreach Services, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.