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Reducing falls risk with Parkinson's

The number of people diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in the UK is about 145,000; that's around 1 adult in every 350. People with Parkinson's don't have enough of the chemical dopamine because some of the nerve cells that make it have died. One of the common symptoms of Parkinson's is reduced mobility, which increases the risk of falls.

Loss of movement

The loss of controlled movement, which is formally known as Akinesia, plays an important part in reducing mobility and making sequencing of several linked movements difficult for people with Parkinson's. Another common manifestation of this can be a reduction in length and speed of stride and foot dragging. All these symptoms reduce mobility and increase the risk of falls. For people with Parkinson's, falls are often frequent; it is estimated that around 60% of those with the condition fall annually, with two thirds of those falling recurrently. People living with Parkinson's will talk about falling into the dishwasher at home, the chilled food cabinet in Waitrose and being whisked off to A&E after falling on the street.

How to decrease the risk of falls

There are a few methods that can decrease the risk of falls that we often use at All About Home Care when we are structuring the support that we provide for our elderly clients in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks and the surrounding villages, especially those with Parkinson's.

There is overwhelming evidence that staying active with regular exercise helps not only reduce falls occurring but also slows the progression of symptoms; it is beneficial at whatever stage of the condition. Exercise improves strength, balance, posture and flexibility. It's suggested that an exercise routine would focus on activities to build strength, flexibility and to include some form of aerobic activity. For those who are frail, seated exercises, pedal exercisers, supervised balance and mobility tasks can provide the combination needed to enhance mobility and stability. There are some excellent exercise groups run by local Parkinson's UK branches. For example, the Sevenoaks branch runs regular bowls, yoga and fitness classes. http://localsupport.parkinsons.org.uk/provider/sevenoaks-branch

For those at earlier stages of the condition, Pilates, tai chi, boot camps, high-intensity interval (HIIT) training, cycling, running and swimming are all popular. It's important to do something that you find enjoyable and fun. Specialist neuro-physios who are trained in supporting people with the condition can help tailor an exercise regime to suit an individual's symptoms and physical capabilities for example Neuro Rehab Kent: http://www.neurorehabkent.co.uk/.

Other tips

Although the importance of keeping active is emphasised in keeping mobile and preventing falls, there are three other factors that our carers often look out for, which are important for preventing falls:

Taking your time: Nearly half of those living with Parkinson's develop postural hypotension: a condition where blood pressure falls when standing quickly after sitting or lying down, leading to dizziness and risk of falling. Raising the head of the bed before getting up can help, as can crossing your legs in a way similar to that recommended when giving blood. Lever yourself up gently when getting out of bed and then standing slowly will also help. Wearing compression stockings can also help regulate blood pressure.

Caring for your vision: Having your vision checked and making sure the prescriptions of your glasses are up to date will also make sure poor focus is not a contributor to a fall.

Declutter: Allied to this is also the tip of keeping clutter around the home to a minimum. It would be a shame to be following a regular set of activities to end up tumbling over clutter in your own home.

If you or someone you know has Parkinson's, it's worth keeping these tips in mind. Alternatively, you can get support by visiting the Parkinson's UK website here. https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/.