Whether you have been a caregiver to a loved one with Parkinson’s for multiple years, or are becoming a caretaker to a loved one who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, there is no doubt that you understand the risks associated with having Parkinson’s and falling. Every single day, caretakers just like you try to foster a safe environment for their loved ones. In today’s blog post, your trusted homecare furnishings company, HomeCARE Furniture by ComforTek, will be discussing why Parkinson’s patients are at risk of falling, some statistics that speak to the prevalence of falls, as well as a few tools you can utilize to reduce the likelihood of falling for your loved one.
What Causes A Parkinson’s Patient To Be At Risk Of Falling?
Parkinson’s, much like other forms of dementia has a high prevalence of injuries caused as a result of falls. Why is this? Well, there are two main reasons that someone with Parkinson’s might experience a fall — the first being mental and physical deterioration as a direct result of the disease, and the other being physical obstructions in their home.
Mental And Physical Deterioration
The primary cause of falls for Parkinson’s patients is the degradation of their mind and boy, but why does this happen? Oddly enough, a little chemical messenger called dopamine is the responsible party. You might be thinking “But dopamine is the chemical messenger for happiness and feeling good, isn’t it?”, and you are correct in thinking so (to some extent), but dopamine is also responsible for controlling movement and emotional responses.
When Parkinson’s begins to manifest itself, dopamine levels and receptors begin to become impaired, thus resulting in various physical and mental limitations. Below, we have listed a few of the more common limitations that are caused by the degradation of dopamine levels in the brain.
Bradykinesia - Bradykinesia is the slowness of movement that is caused by dopamine loss. This can become a fall issue, as once someone begins to lose balance, they might not be able to regain balance quickly enough, resulting in a potentially injuring fall.
Rigidity - Rigidity, much like Bradykinesia can impact a Parkinson’s patient’s likelihood of falling as their muscles become tense, limiting their ability to move fluidly over obstacles, as well as their ability to regain balance once they begin to fall.
Tremors - Tremors can cause falls in Parkinson’s patients as they are a quick, and sudden, jerking movement of the hands, arms, legs, and trunk of the body. Due to their involuntary nature, they can occur at any time, even when the person suffering from Parkinson’s is mid-step.
Freezing - Dressing is another common symptom of Parkinson’s that can occur as a result of imbalances in dopamine. Much like tremors, freezing is dangerous because it can occur at almost any time.
While obviously, the largest fall risk that can be attributed to falling is that of the symptoms caused by Parkinson’s, physical obstructions in the home can also contribute to a patient’s fall risk. Some of the most common causes of falls that are related to physical obstructions in the household are loose power chords, small steps in the home, the edges of rugs, and even sticky flooring like linoleum.
Parkinson’s & Falls Case Study: Why Falling Needs To Be Talked About
In 2011, a case study was conducted on 160 Parkinson’s patients, with ages ranging from 62.5-81.5, to examine the likelihood for someone with Parkinson’s to fall. 62 of the patients (38.8%) admitted that since their diagnosis, they had fallen at some point. While simply stating that close to 40% of Parkinson’s patients involved in the study had fallen seems like a staggering statistic, what is truly astonishing is the likelihood that someone with Parkinson’s will become a frequent faller. Of the 62 patients that admitted that they have fallen, 42 people (68%) had claimed that they fell often.
While this is no doubt a shocking statistic — it doesn't stop there. Below, we have listed the number of falls a day that Parkinson’s patients find themselves falling — as found by the study:
- One or more falls a day (4.8%)
- One or more falls a week (9.7%)
- One or more falls a month (25.8%)
- One or more falls per six months (59.7%)
While the evidence of the study was a shocking example of how frequently Parkinson’s patients fall, there are ways to make a home safer for your loved one. In a past blog, we discussed some ways to make the average home safer for dementia patients. If you are interested in learning some simple ways to reduce the fall risk in your home, be sure to check out our post!
Avoiding Falls During Mealtime
At HomeCARE Furniture by ComforTek we strive to manufacture products that can make homecare safer, and more enjoyable for both caretakers and their loved ones. While we do not have a fix-all solution for Parkinson’s fall risks, we do have a fall-risk solution for mealtime. Our homecare furniture like our mobility assist chairs are specially designed to create a safer dining environment. If your issue is mobility from the kitchen to the dining room, consider utilizing one of our bariatric chairs with wheels. If you have issues scooting, and turning your loved one towards the table once they sit, consider one of our various swivel dining room chairs with casters. If neither of those mobility assistance chairs would do the trick, don't fret, as we have a number of homecare chairs on our website that all serve a specific function. Compare our mobility dining chairs today to find the one that would best fit your needs.
If you are wondering how to safely use our chairs we urge that you read one of our previous blog posts where we discussed a few tips and tricks that will make helping your loved one sit and stand both easier and safer.