Impaired balance and the tendency to fall without explanation, usually when pivoting; a common symptom in the later stages of Parkinson’s. is the least treatable of the major movement symptoms of PD, but there are things you can do to reduce the risk of falls.
The best approach is to start exercising early and do your best to maintain good posture. Exercise is proven to improve gait and balance and reduce falls.
In addition to exercise, early physical therapy is a good idea. You don’t need to wait until you are having trouble moving to start! A physical therapist can help you develop a general exercise plan and teach you specific exercises to maintain and improve balance and posture.
Tips for Preventing Falls
Here are some basic tips to ensure that your home is safe and accessible:
- Remove throw rugs.
- Keep areas well lit; use nightlights where necessary.
- Install grab bars in the bathroom.
- Install handrails on all stairs.
- Clear clutter.
- Avoid rolling chairs.
It is helpful to go room by room through your home to make any needed adjustments that will create a safer home environment.
For a complete safety review of your home, ask for your doctor for an in-home occupational therapist safety assessment or find a certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS). You can locate a CAPS on the website of the National Association of Home Builders or by calling 1-800-368-5242.
Tips for Preventing Backward Falls
- Avoid stepping backward.
- Step sideways.
- Make a safe turn, then walk forward.
- Do not stand directly in front of the oven door, refrigerator door, microwave or other appliance you are trying to open. Instead stand slightly to the side and use a “Power Stance,” with one hand on a stable surface.
If a Fall Occurs
- Remain calm. Feel and look for any pain or possible injuries before you try to get up. Plan your strategy carefully.
- Use a heavy piece of furniture to assist you in getting up. If you doubt your ability to safely get up alone, crawl or scoot to a phone and call for help.
If you are someone who frequently falls, it is recommended that you enroll in a home emergency response system. A physical therapist can also help you prepare a system in case a fall occurs.
Care partners should also know how to help someone get up after a fall. A transfer belt can provide you with a firm grip to aid the person as he or she rises.
Detailed instructions for how to get up from a fall, along with more posture and balance information and tips, can be found in the Parkinson’s Foundation publication Fitness Counts. Call our Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) to get your free copy.