How to help with falling issues of a Parkinson's Disease patient?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 28, 2016
Millsjohn63 asked...

How do I deal with the falling issues of a Parkinson's Disease patient?

Expert Answers

Graham A. Glass, MD, is the deputy director of the San Francisco Parkinson's Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Care Center (PADRECC) and an assistant clinical professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He completed a fellowship in movement disorders at the Mayo Clinic.

Falling is a very difficult problem in Parkinson's disease, as a patients' sense of balance is not helped by any of the medications that we use to treat PD. If the patient is falling because their legs freeze up and then they fall forward, we will often be able to help by increasing the medication dose. That being said, if the problem is more of a balance issue we strongly encourage physical therapy as well as moving to the appropriate gait assistive devices (walker etc) to ensure safety. We never want to decide that a person should have been using a walker after a bad fall has taken place and try our best to be pro-active in this. I wish there were more that we could do to help with balance in PD, but like problems with swallowing and speech, we really struggle, as the medications do very little if anything to help.

Community Answers

Bunnygirl answered...

My Dad has PD-his Neurologist suggested using a laser pointer when his feet froze. What is happening is NOT the inability to move at all-rather the brain is 'stuck' and not TELLING the feet to move. The laser lite gives them something to focus on and this enables them to 'unfreeze' and move their feet. Some walkers have a laser pointer afixed on them! Or like for my Dad-he had a potty chair next to his bed-his feet would freeze--and wouldn't make it. Again his Neuro suggested putting a strip of brightly colored tape that is strategically placed-we used flourescent green--and would tell him--'when you can't move your feet-look at that tape--that is your target--focus on the tape and tell your feet to go to it.' This helped--when he could remember to do it--a cure all? No. But helpful.

Wiitak answered...

Bunnygirl: thanks for the post. My husband hasn't an issue with freezing since his DBS surgery. His neuro said that the falling probably was there all along, but wasn't noticeable since he froze so much. dr. told my husband he couldn't take walking for granted and that he would have to re-learn everything.....that was 7 years ago! Now that he is more mobile, falling is a great concern. Strange, though he walks the dog two times a day without falling. I wonder if he falls more inside the house because of the confinement? and fells more "free" when out doors? Guess pd is a continual learning experience! Wiitak