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Legends of the fall

Falling is a big concern for people with Parkinson's (PWP). An estimated 68 percent of us fall each year; and 70 percent of these people experience recurrent, frequent falls (several a day) resulting in injuries that contribute to declines in mobility, activity levels, independence, and quality of life. We are not talking about ordinary falls, but about spectacular ones that people are fortunate to walk away from. One of my friends has already used up several of her nine lives falling down a flight of basement stairs, and knocking a heavy antique clock off a wall and having it land inches from her head.

My first fall took me totally by surprise. I was working at my computer at 4 a.m. and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled out on the floor in my home office with my desk chair on top of me, and not a mark on my body. I can only assume that I fell asleep at my computer, leaned to one side, and tipped over my chair with me in it.

"What were you doing at your computer when you should have been sleeping?" my Movement Disorder Specialist asked when I tattled on myself later that day.



"This is my most creative and productive time," I told her, vowing to find a way to hide the email time stamp that always gets me in trouble.

In the end, my doctor told me that this incident did not even qualify as a Parkinson's-related fall, as its primary cause was poor judgment on my part. Take away lesson: not all falls are created equal.


My next fall came upon returning home from vacation. The sight of our house triggered in me such a sudden, strong urge to pee that I pushed open the passenger door before my husband turned off the seat belt sign. I kicked off my shoes in the laundry room and ran down the hallway in my stocking feet, heading straight for the powder room. It felt like an out of body experience, I was actually running, and visualizing myself crossing an imaginary finish line.

As I sprinted toward it, reality set in… my socks slipped on our high gloss tile and sent me careening flat out onto my two bionic knees. I jumped up reflexively as if I had landed in a fire pit. Funny, had I been exercising on the floor, I could have never gotten up without assistance, let alone with such ease. I was lucky, too, that my left arm absorbed most of the impact, sparing my very expensive knees.

Fall prevention is a key component of living well with Parkinson's. To decrease your risk of falling and ensure a better quality of life, ask your health care team what you can do to make your house safer, optimize your medication regimen, and improve your gait and balance with specific exercises and assistive devices.

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