Parkinson's Oxford and DistrictParkinson's UK
▲ Top of page ▲

Falling and how to prevent it

Aimee Petrie, Falls Prevention Practice Educator with our local NHS Trust, gave a short talk at our Branch meeting in March about how to minimise the risk of falls at home and out and about.

Having a wobble … feeling giddy … losing your balance … tripping … not being able to see very well … these are all reasons that people give for ending up on the floor, and, frequently, finding it difficult to get up again. Sometimes falls mean that people have to go to hospital, which, we all agree, would be much better avoided!

Aimee gave us lots of reasons why we fall, and also lots of good advice about what to do to prevent falls. For example: that feeling of light-headedness when you get up suddenly from a chair has actually got a medical name - orthostatic hypotension - and you can help yourself feel less giddy, and then less likely to fall, by doing some simple moves. Aimee suggests that before you stand up you 'do a bit of a wriggle'. Stretch your fingers, arms and legs for a minute or two; practice those jazz hands and hand jives!

Getting out of bed similarly - move your body about before you try to get up. And turn on the lights before you get up at night. Always have a torch nearby in case there's a power cut. Avoid tangly nightwear that might trip you up, or having books and magazines on the floor.

On the stairs and in the hallway: lighting is very important here. Use the handrail and make sure it's secure. Keep clutter off the stairs, and avoid carrying things on the stairs. I think that's a tricky one - if you live in a house with stairs, you have to take some things up and down! And if, like me, you've got a dog who likes to go everywhere you go, you can soon end up in a tangle of legs. Not a good idea. Try not to rush if the doorbell or phone goes; if it's important, they'll call back.

Bathrooms! So slippery! Get non-slip mats, secure grab rails, and have the loo roll within easy reach - not fixed to the wall somewhere behind your left ear so you have to turn around. Ask for help! I bet we can all think of someone we know and love who is still climbing steps to prune their apple tree, change a light bulb, paint the ceiling, dust the cobwebs … and really, we feel they shouldn't! I'm gradually realising that, living on my own, wearing vari-focal specs - and did I mention the dog? - I am simply not safe trying to change a light bulb at the top of a wobbly pair of steps. If I ever was.

In the kitchen, avoid over-stretching to those high shelves, or bending down too quickly. You'll only have to get up again and might feel giddy. So keep things within easy reach; and you wouldn't dream of climbing on chairs or steps, would you?

When you're going outside, try to have a light on if it's dark; look out for slippery things like wet leaves, and, if the weather's bad, ask yourself if you really have to go out at all! Aimee has some simple tips for staying safe outside: wear sensible footwear, make sure you've had enough to drink and taken any medication.

Other general things which help: making sure your diet contains calcium and oily fish; taking gentle exercise; and getting fresh air.

As you would expect, Aimee is very keen on the idea of a Medicalert alarm - so long as you wear it!

If you need help with small repairs or adjustments in your home, or think you might like to apply for a disabled facilities grant, then help is available from local authorities. Check our list of services in our area for more information.