Medical Alerts Protect People with Parkinson’s

Medical Alerts Protect People with Parkinson’s

People living with Parkinson’s disease suffer from progressive problems with motor control, balance, and mobility, which leads to an increased risk of falls. All the way back in 1817, when James Parkinson first reported on the mysterious malady, he noted that “the patient, on processing only a very few paces, would inevitably fall.”1

As we age, our risk of falling increases. The CDC reports that more than one in four seniors falls at least once each year, and that after falling, the risk of another fall doubles.2 But for those with Parkinson’s, the risk is already doubled, and as the disease progresses, the odds of falling continue to go up.

Falls can lead to very serious injuries such as a serious fracture or even a traumatic brain injury. Both of these issues affect mobility even further, and that can affect a person’s quality of life. A fall alert can help alleviate some of the concerns about falling, as it not only gives the wearer the ability to call for help 24/7, but a built-in sensor can detect falls and automatically send an alert for help without the wearer even having to press the button alarm.

According to the Parkinson Foundation, while the motor symptoms that a person experiences with Parkinson’s definitely contribute to the higher risk of falls, other issues play a part as well.3

The Risk of Falls with Parkinson’s

According to research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Health Policy, between 45% - 68% of those with Parkinson’s fall each year, and up to 86% fall more than once. And while the aging process in general means that those who are elderly tend to fall more often, for those with Parkinson’s, the risk of falls goes up sharply at the age of 40 – much sooner than those in the general population would expect to worry about falls and injuries.4

The problems that result from falls are always worrisome, but can be even more so for those who have Parkinson’s. For instance, hip fractures are four times more common among those with Parkinson’s than those without.

Recovery from any sort of severe injury like this is complicated in those with any chronic condition but especially for those with Parkinson’s, as their body movements can lead to a complex recovery but perhaps not a complete one, which can then steal a person’s independence by making the activities of daily living even harder than they were before falling.

An emergency alert system can protect those with Parkinson’s from the dire consequences of falls that leave them lying on the floor, unable to reach out for help. By pressing the emergency button alarm, a person easily get the help they need right away. And by choosing a medical alert system with fall detection, you don’t have to press the button at all – something that can be quite helpful for those with Parkinson’s.

But in addition to having help at your fingertips, it’s important to understand what causes the falls and how to possibly prevent them.

The Motor Symptoms that Lead to Falls

The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s are the biggest contributors to falls:

·        Rigidity, which is stiffness of the limbs, can make it difficult for the joints to move properly. Axial rigidity, which reduces flexibility in the back and torso, results in a loss of balance.

·        Bradykinesia, or slowed down movements, can make taking steps more difficult. It can also lead to difficulty in reaching out to grab something to break your fall.

·        A person’s posture naturally changes as they try to compensate for the tremors or unusual gait of Parkinson’s. As a result, their body is thrown off balance and that increases the risk of falls.

·        In someone with Parkinson’s, their center of gravity might shift. This throws their body out of alignment, which leads to a loss of balance.

·        “Freezing” is a common problem for those with Parkinson’s. It can feel as though your feet are stuck to the floor or it is impossible make your body move. When movement does come, it can be abrupt, and that can lead to a fall.

·        Parkinson’s can mean a stooped posture, shuffling gait, and leaning forward while walking. Any problems with posture can increase the risk of falls. In addition, postural reflexes – those movements we make automatically to stay upright – are affected.

Other Problems that Contribute to Falls

While the issues with posture, gait, tremors, and other symptoms of Parkinson’s can clearly lead to falls, other problems can increase the risk as well. Many of these problems can show up well before the hallmark problems with tremors show up in those with Parkinson’s, making it even more important to consider medical alert systems with fall detection. The help of medical alert technology can ensure that while a fall might occur, you can always get assistance the moment it happens.

·        Vision problems can be common for those with Parkinson’s, including double vision, blurry vision, and changes in depth perception. Any issue with vision can lead to an increased risk of falls.

·        Blood pressure problems are common among those with Parkinson’s. Orthostatic hypertension, or the sudden change in blood pressure when standing up after sitting down, can lead to feeling lightheaded or dizzy. Obviously, that creates a danger of falling.

·        Those with Parkinson’s are often quite exhausted, even on a “good day.” That’s because their sleep is often disturbed by the symptoms of the condition. They also have to expend more energy to get around, which increases fatigue. The more tired you are, the higher your risk of any sort of accident, including a fall.

·        Bowel problems can be a surprising contributor to the risk of falls. Constipation is common among those with Parkinson’s. As a person strains at the toilet, they might experience a drop in heart rate and change in blood pressure, which can be even more pronounced in those with Parkinson’s. And the constipation can put pressure on the bladder, which leads to urinary incontinence. Rushing to reach the bathroom in time can mean falling down on the way there.

Finally, a fear of falling is a significant risk factor that can affect anyone who has already suffered a fall, no matter their age or underlying conditions. The fear of falling can make you very careful about your gait and movements, and that alone can lead to a higher risk of falls.

How to Alleviate the Risk of Falls with Parkinson’s

Though it is impossible to completely remove the risk of falls for those with Parkinson’s, there are ways to reduce the odds that a person will fall. It all starts with a determination to make the environment around you as safe as possible.

·        Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you assess the risk of falls. Some medications and environmental factors that contribute to falls can be changed through the help of these professionals. They can also evaluate your balance and gait to help plan out physical therapy and other options that can help you.

·        Modify the home. Aging in place home modifications can be a great way to keep yourself safe, whether you have a chronic condition or not. But things like grab bars, non-skid flooring, rails at stairs (and even in long hallways), bed rails, lift chairs, and adaptive utensils can all be even more helpful to those with Parkinson’s. Simply removing clutter from the home to eliminate as many fall risks as possible can also be helpful.

·        Get exercise. Exercise can help strengthen your balance, fight rigidity, and improve flexibility. Weight-bearing exercises can help strengthen bones, which might help you avoid the fractures that are often associated with falls from Parkinson’s. Exercise can also improve concentration, attentiveness, spatial awareness, and overall quality of life. Talk with a physical therapist about the exercises that are right for your particular situation.

·        Use assistive devices. Canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and other assistive devices can help you get around and stay independent while helping to reduce the risk of falls. If your doctor has recommended that you use one of these devices, speak to your physical therapist about how to use them properly, and then make a point of using them regularly. Though these devices won’t eliminate the risk of falls, they can greatly reduce it.

And as always, let Alert1 protect you by being a faithful companion. A medical alert pendant, bracelet or watch can help assure that if you do suffer a fall, help is just a button press away. A live, trained professional will speak to you in seconds, help you assess the situation, and then send the help that is needed at that moment. They will stay on the line with you until that help arrives. You’re facing a lot of challenges with Parkinson’s – alleviate some of your concerns by choosing a medical alarm and other technologies that can help keep you safe and protected.