A new Canadian study has shown that learning to walk to music can dramatically reduce the incidence of falls in people with Parkinson’s disease. The training programme which uses a technique known as “rhythmic auditory stimulation” (RAS) involved groups of people with Parkinson’s walking for 30 minutes each day to pieces of music with embedded metronome beats and noted a significant improvement after 16 weeks, when compared with a control group.
Individuals with Parkinson’s are at particularly high risk of falls and with over 120,000 people in the UK diagnosed with this degenerative neurological condition, any new approach to falls reduction must be welcomed. Although further research is needed before RAS can have wider practical application, we have a number of useful falls prevention tips to share that you can put into practice today.
Parkinson’s disease is typically characterised by akinesia, an absence of or reduction in the functionality of movements. Symptoms of akinesia can include:
- Difficulty initiating movement
- Increased fatigue
- Impaired gait/posture
- Freezing during movement
- Difficulty in sequencing movements
- Slowness and reduction in the control of movements.
Ensuring your staff are aware of these problems and the steps they can take to reduce their impact can dramatically reduce the risk of falls amongst your service users with Parkinson’s.
Raise Awareness of These 4 Common Causes of Falls to Reduce the Risks to People with Parkinson’s in Your Care
- Freezing: Freezing or being unable to initiate movement when walking is commonplace in Parkinson’s but it’s not commonly known that this disabling symptom is often caused by anxiety. For this reason, it’s important care staff don’t rush a person with Parkinson’s when mobilising. It’s also helpful to reduce clutter or items which can cause visual distraction and if the person struggles to initiate movement or freezes mid-movement, verbal cues such as rhythmic counting can help.
- Poor vision: Parkinson’s can often lead to a deterioration in ocular motor control which can cause blurred or double vision, increasing the risk of falls. Aim to ensure rooms are well lit, that the correct glasses are worn and try to avoid floor surfaces which are reflective or hard to perceive. Organising regular eye tests to exclude other visual problems can also be helpful.
- Postural hypotension: Research suggests that almost half of people with Parkinson’s suffer with postural hypotension which can lead to dizziness, fainting and falls. Train your staff to understand that service users with Parkinson’s may suffer these symptoms, particularly when standing suddenly, or in warm weather or after a hot bath, to help them to predict when there may an increased risk of falls and take steps to prevent them.
- Inadequate footcare: A lack of adequate footcare can significantly increase the risk of falls as factors such as overgrown toenails, calluses and corns affect gait and balance. Aim to ensure that feet are kept in good condition by checking them daily and arranging treatment of any issues by a suitably qualified podiatrist.