People with Parkinson's disease (PD) have twice the risk for falling as compared to their peers. Falling may result in minor injuries such as cuts and bruises, or more serious fractures resulting in hospitalisation. Falls can also affect the confidence of people with Parkinson, causing them to become less independent in daily activities.

Causes of falls in people with Parkinson's 

These include:

  • Motor symptoms. Stiffness, slowness of movement and reduced flexibility may affect balance during daily activities.

  • Impaired vision. Blurred or double vision can affect depth perception and cause a person to trips.

  • Non-motor symptoms. People with Parkinson may experience a drop in blood pressure when changing positions from sitting or lying down, which in turn results in light-headedness and can cause a fall.

  • Poor sleep which may also cause tiredness leading to falls.

  • Obstructions in the physical environment such as clutter or steps also increase the risk for falls.

How to prevent falls in people with Parkinson's

Minimising falls in people with Parkinson's disease requires ALL of the following:

  1. Take your medication diligently as prescribed.
    Medication can help to improve both motor and non-motor symptoms, which in turn enables the individual to be more independent and safe.

  2. Exercise regularly.
    Exercises that specifically challenge and strengthen a person’s balance, address rigidity and improve flexibility help to prevent falls.
    Click here for exercise photos and videos for Parkinson's.

  3. Focus on big movements.
    People with Parkinson may find their movements becoming smaller. For example smaller steps and lesser reach. Big movements are necessary to step over obstacles, reach out for safety rails. When getting ready to step over a kerb or reach for a rail, people with Parkinson (or their caregiver) can remind themselves to take a deep breath and take a BIG step or a BIG reach.

  4. Go for regular eye checks. It can help to detect early changes in vision.

  5. Improve home safety. Reduce clutter on the floor to create clear walkways throughout the home. Sturdy furniture placed along the path may provide support when walking. Consider installing handrails at steps and grab bars in the bathroom and toilet.
    Click here for top 10 safety tips to prevent falls at home.

  6. Be mindful during movement.
    People with Parkinson often fall because their movements cannot keep up with their intention. For example, when changing direction while walking, they may turn their head and shoulders before placing their feet in the right direction, leading to a fall. Mindfulness in movement means focusing on putting effort into making each movement accurate and safe.

An occupational therapist can help you to identify and put in place both environmental modifications, as well as behaviour strategies to prevent falls for people with Parkinson.

This information was provided by the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) Occupational Therapy Department, a member of the SingHealth group.

Ref: K21

Check out other articles on parkinson's disease:

What to Do If Parkinson Disease Strikes

Tips to Make Daily Living with Parkinson's Easier

How to Manage 'On' and 'Off' States in Parkinson's

Videos: Exercises for Parkinson Patients

Staying Active with Parkinson's