Balance Hacks for Parkinson’s Sufferers


Depression ParkinsonsIf you or a loved one are suffering from Parkinson’s Disease (PD) you are already acquainted with the fact that the patient may manifest tremors, rigid or stiff limbs, suffer from slowness of movement, or struggle with balance and coordination. Those with PD need to be treated with patience when they have trouble getting around and should be allowed to manage on their own, where and when appropriate, in order to keep their independence as well as their mobility.

Unfortunately Parkinson’s is a chronic disease and there is not yet a way to prevent its progression – but medications can help symptoms and there are compensating mechanisms for muscles to improve balance and thus prevent falls.

The risk for falls stems from the fact that a Parkinson’s patient will tend to lean Senior men, chair yoga, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's preventionforward and bend the head, thus shifting their weight and their center of gravity. Shuffling only adds to the probability they will stumble unless they can adjust their balance and react by stabilizing themselves in time. Parkinson’s patients who have taken control of their condition through an exercise regimen have seen great success with yoga, water aerobics, treadmills, stationery bikes, dancing and even boxing classes! Coordination, posture, and stability can improve dramatically when the exercise “pill” is administered in addition to physical therapy where appropriate. Exercises that stretch the limbs through the full range of motion are best. The type of exercise chosen depends of course on the patient’s symptoms, fitness level, and overall health – check with your physician first!

Falls are a problem for some with PD due to double and blurry vision as well as changes in depth perception, making it difficult for them to maintain their center of gravity and balance. Those with Parkinson’s can experience low blood pressure when arising from a sitting or lying down position, which causes lightheadedness and can result in a fall.

All Seniors should be concerned about the consequences of falls as they cause more than 90% of all hip fractures. Do not let the fear of falling cause you or your loved one to cut back on the physical activities that will strengthen their muscles and reflexes. As their stability increases so will their confidence and feeling of independence.

We have summarized the elements essential to good balance for Parkinson’s patients from Cleveland Clinic below:

     *  Keep one hand free at all times. Try using a backpack or fanny pack to hold things rather than carrying them in your hands.

     *  Try and swing both arms from front to back while walking. It helps to maintain balance and posture.

     *  Consciously lift your feet off of the ground when walking. Shuffling and dragging of the feet causes a loss of balance.

     *  When trying to navigate turns, DO NOT pivot sharply! Instead making a wide turn – like a “U.”

     *  Stand with your feet shoulder-length apart instead of close together.

     *  Do one thing at a time and stay focused. The less distraction, the better.

     *  Do not wear rubber or gripping soled shoes, they might “catch” on the floor and cause tripping.

     *  Move slowly when changing positions. Use deliberate, concentrated movements. If needed, use a grab bar or walking aid.

     * When “frozen,” visualize stepping over an imaginary object, or have someone place their foot in front of yours to step over. Try not to have a caregiver or family member “pull” you.

Parkinsons is treatable -pngFall prevention is an important component of living with PD. If balance is a continuous problem, you might want to consider a walking aid such as a cane or walker. Remember to check your home inside and out for trip and fall hazards. You may want to read Regal’s prior article: Best Bets to Fend Off Falls!

Additional resources can be found at:

     *  The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation: http://www.pdf.org/en/fall09_fall_prevention

     *  The Cleveland Clinic: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/search/results?q=Parkinson%27s%20Disease

Contact Us: Putting a puzzle together, writing a letter, even getting dressed is not as simple as it once was. Cooking a meal or taking a bath can be a challenge for Parkinson’s patients, and of course the risk for falls is serious. Regal professionals and caregivers are specially trained in dealing with PD and understand how frustrating it can be for sufferers and their families. Let us help you navigate assessments, symptoms, therapy, exercise and medications, as well as insurance. The changes that may need to be made in the home environment and daily routine can be complex – Regal can help! For a complimentary consultation contact Ferial Andre RN, CCM, CDP, at 561-499-8382 or ferialandre@regalcares.com.

This article is not intended as medical advice.