York Professor William Gage has recently published an ebook that acts as a primer for people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, members of their family or caregivers.
Don’t Fall: Parkinson’s Disease, Knowledge for Patients, Families and Caregivers to Reduce the Risk of Falling synthesizes the most up-to-date information available about Parkinson’s disease, as well as the latest research from peer-reviewed journals. The material is presented in an easy-to-navigate format for the layperson.
“My area of expertise is balance control and walking and falls,” says Gage, associate dean, research and innovation, in the Faculty of Health. “So for me it makes sense to write about falls and the devastating impact that falls can have on a person’s quality of life, as well as the quality of life of the people around them.”
People with Parkinson’s disease are at greater risk of falling because of the nature of the disease. The disease affects the amount of dopamine in the basal ganglia area of the brain, which helps control and initiate muscle movement. The effect of a lack of dopamine can mean slower movements and feeling frozen in place when trying to start walking. The freezing often happens when the person is trying to walk; they suddenly feel rooted to the ground and can’t move.
With these symptoms comes an increased risk of falling and, importantly, an increased risk of injury. People with Parkinson’s disease are less able to quickly protect themselves – by throwing out their arms to break their fall, for example – as those without the disease, says Gage. In addition, one study in particular pointed to reduced bone density in people with Parkinson’s disease, which would put them at a higher risk of bone fractures.