Living with Parkinson’s Disease comes with many challenges. Accidental trips and falls are some of the most common problems most patients face.
Parkinson’s Disease impacts your gait to the point that sometimes your mind starts to move faster than your legs.
When this happens, your mind will have already made the climb up your stairs. This causes you to trip and fall as your body tries to catch up to where your brain thinks you are.
You might even notice that your stride has gotten smaller, and you walk much slower than you used to before.
“The Parkinsonian gait is characterized by small shuffling steps and general slowness. For those living with the disease, reduced stride length and walking speed are common, as well as difficulty starting, and difficulty stopping after starting.” - Amy Natt, MS, CMS, CSA
You need to talk to your doctor about any changes you’re experiencing, but, in the meantime, let us give you some tips to help keep you safe and reduce the number of falls you could have at home.
1. Check Your Balance Before You Move
If you move too quickly, before you make sure you have your balance, you’re likely to trip or fall.
Grab onto something for support before you get up and hold the railing, for instance, when you climb up or down the stairs leading to your front or back door or another level of your house.
If you make a habit of this, it will help you reduce your risk of accidental falls and injuries due to Parkinson’s symptoms.
Recommended Reading: Ask the Expert Q&A: Parkinson’s—What You Need to Know
2. Participate in Physical Therapy
The thought of physical therapy may seem unappealing to you, but it’s one of the best things you can do to manage your Parkinson’s symptoms.
Exercise, in general, is beneficial for patients with Parkinson’s disease. But physical therapy is particularly helpful. A trained physical therapist can guide you through the right exercises you need to do to increase mobility, strength, balance, and help you remain independent.
Physical therapists have experience with patients struggling with Parkinson’s symptoms, and they will be able to customize a program that will help you live a better life.
3. Join a Support Group
Support groups are another option that you may think you won’t like, but you can learn a lot from other people who are living with Parkinson’s.
In a support group, you will hear how others with this disease have learned to cope with the same challenges you’re facing. It can give you ideas about new things you can try that will be helpful and give you a fresh perspective.
Talking with others that know the impact Parkinson’s is having on your life can help you process your situation better. They understand what you’re going through. This gives you an outlet for you to vent your frustration, help you cope with your stress, and manage the feelings that you’re experiencing.
Recommended Reading: Sandhills Area Support Group
4. Consider Purchasing Mobility Equipment
To reduce falls at home, you must keep your balance. Mobility equipment can make that so much easier.
There is a wide selection of mobility equipment available, so you can choose what to use based on your preferences and lifestyle.
There is a wide range of assistive devices available for those with Parkinson's. Some of the options available are crutches, canes, walkers, wheelchairs, or even motorized scooters.
There are also devices to assist you with other difficult day-to-day activities as well. This article goes into more detail about those.
Make sure to consult with a physical therapist and/or occupational therapist to find out what equipment would be best suited for your unique needs.
A licensed therapist can even tell you what insurance coverage is available to help you purchase the mobility equipment you need.
5. Rearrange Your Furniture
Do you find yourself bumping into or tripping over the same pieces of furniture again and again? Having furniture that sticks out or is in the way can be dangerous and is likely to cause accidental falls.
If you see you have this type of situation in your home, you should rearrange the furniture to reduce the risk of falls at home.
Once you have found the best way to arrange your furniture for freedom of movement throughout your home, don’t keep moving the furniture around. Create an easily accessible space you’re familiar with, then avoid new routines and changes at home.
You’ll want to be able to get used to your furniture placement, so you will know the places you can grab onto as you go from room to room. This way, your rooms will be safe and easily accessible.
Also, family members and caregivers should avoid moving furniture or add new pieces without letting you know.
Physical and Occupational Therapists often make home visits to make recommendations on furniture placement and other home safety issues that might help prevent falls.
Recommended Reading: 8 Tips for Staying Active with Parkinson’s Disease
6. Ditch the Throw Rugs and Carpet Runners
Throw rugs and carpet runners can be even more dangerous than poorly placed furniture when it comes to the risk of falls.
Parkinson’s impact on your balance and gait puts you at a higher risk of tripping on the edges of throw rugs or carpet runners when you try to walk on them.
Throw them out, and if you absolutely must put something down on your floor, purchase something that is skid-proof and better suited to preventing trips and falls.
7. Wear Safer Footwear
The type of footwear you choose to wear can put you at a higher risk of falls—but this probably applies to women more than men. Women are more likely to wear unsafe footwear that can trip them up and throw off their balance.
Researchers state in this paper published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research that particular shoes commonly worn by women are problematic. It goes on to say this:
“specific styles of shoes such as slippers, high heeled court shoes, and shoes with limited or absent fixation are notably associated with sub-optimal characteristics. Factors such as excessive heel height, reduced friction on the soles of footwear, walking barefoot, wearing socks or footwear with a flimsy sole have all been linked to instability and increased fall risk in older people.”
Purchase safe, comfortable footwear that fits snuggly and is easy to put on and take off as well as support and balance.
8. Install Grab Bars or Rails
Certain places in your house are more dangerous than others, such as your bathroom, steps, or stairs.
Grab bars or rails give you something to hold on to when you get on and off the toilet, or climb in and out of your tub/shower. They also will assist you when you go up or down steps or stairs.
You should install grab bars or rails in any of these areas in your home to help you get around and reduce your risk of falling.
Side note, handrails for your bed are also available. These may or may not keep you from falling, but they do assist you with getting in and out of bed. If mobility is an issue, then you may find these to be helpful as well.
9. Make Sure Rooms Are Well Lit
Good visibility is critical for you to move around in your home safely. Dark rooms make it hard for you to see and increases your risk of a fall. You want to be able to walk through your home without tripping or bumping into something that could cause injuries.
Place lamps in places where you frequently sit or regularly spend time. Lamps and other lighting placed or installed strategically around your house will make it easier for you to stay active and independent.
Needless to say, lamps can only help if you use them. When it gets dark, turn them on. You may worry about that few extra cents on your electric bill, but an injury due to a fall is more expensive by far. You need the extra light to go from one room of your house to another. Use it.
10. Keep Commonly Used Items Between Eye and Waist Level
Climbing on a step stool or other furniture to retrieve commonly used items is an accident waiting to happen.
Keep the items you use the most between eye and waist level, so you don’t have to bend over or climb to reach them all the time.
Items that you only use a few times a year are better suited to higher shelves and cabinets since you don’t need to retrieve them as often. If you must get to something in a lower cabinet or bottom drawer, try sitting in a chair before you reach for it.
11. Use Reflective Tape On Steps
When it’s dark, it can be difficult to see the steps in front of you when you’re trying to go up or down them.
Reflective tape makes them easier to spot so that you don’t accidentally miss a step and trip or fall as a result.
Purchase reflective tape and stick it on the tops and fronts of every step in your home to make them easier to see when it’s dark.
12. Consider Using A Medical Emergency Alert Button
I saved this tip for last because I know it’s probably going to be your least favorite out of all the advice I’ve provided in this article, but you really should consider it.
No one likes giving up their autonomy or independence. The idea of being monitored 24-7 may feel very invasive. Think of it this way, with this device, you will be able to keep your independence longer. It helps you stay safely “in place” as compared to having to give up your home and move in with a relative or to some assisted living residence.
Reducing your risk of falling is great, but accidents can still happen despite even the best preventative measures. A medical emergency alert button is your back up plan for when all else fails, and you need help.
Medical alert buttons are available in a bracelet or watch style - not all are necklaces. The peace of mind is well worth it in the long run—don’t you think?
Whew! That was a lot of information to take in all at once, so let’s do a quick recap to make sure you remember the most important information you need to take away from this article.
- Check Your Balance Before You Move: grab onto something for support, particularly before standing up and when climbing up or down steps or stairs.
- Participate in Physical Therapy: let a physical therapist customize a plan to help you manage your Parkinson’s symptoms.
- Join a Support Group: learn from other people who are living with Parkinson’s and try out some of the things they do that help them to see if it helps you too.
- Consider Purchasing Mobility Equipment: use a cane, crutches, a walker, a wheelchair, an electric scooter, or another mobility device to reduce your risk of falling.
- Rearrange Your Furniture: move furniture, so it’s not sticking out or in the way, and you have a more open area to move around.
- Ditch the Throw Rugs and Carpet Runners: replace these items with safer, non-skid versions if you really want to put something down on the floor.
- Wear Safer Footwear: wear footwear that fits snuggly and avoid unsafe footwear such as flip flops or heels.
- Install Grab Bars or Rails: dangerous areas of your home such as bathrooms and steps or stairs should have grab bars or rails close by.
- Make Sure Rooms Are Well Lit: keep your house well lit. Put lamps in convenient places in your home so you can safely move around your house at night.
- Keep Commonly Used Items Between Eye and Waist Level: don’t store items that you use all the time in hard-to-reach places where you’ll have to bend over or climb to reach them.
- Use Reflective Tape On Steps: make your steps and stairs easier to see in the dark by putting reflective tape on the tops and fronts of each step.
- Consider Using A Medical Alert Device: get peace of mind and a backup plan just in case so you can get help when you need it.
Let Us Help You Reduce Falls at Home
Are you still worried that despite your best efforts, you’re going to fall and get hurt?
Let us help you ease your concerns and make your home a safer place for you to live so that you can spend less time worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Our Care Managers are experienced with helping Parkinson’s patients in all aspects of their lives, and we’re confident that we can help you too.
“Going with AOS and having Amy Natt as our care manager is the smartest arrangement I have made regarding my husband’s and my senior years. Amy has guided us and been with me during several medical emergencies.” - Lea Isadore
Request your free consultation to speak with one of our experienced and compassionate Care Managers so you can get the help you need today.
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