Humpty Dumpty on left walking with music notes coming out of his mouth and on right on the floor with an ice pack on his head and red pain symbols coming out of his knees

Humpty Dumpty Time Again

A few days ago, I found myself on the floor again with a myriad of thoughts whirling around in my brain. The first was “Did I hurt myself?” followed by a mental check of body parts:

knees? Banged them both. Hips? Only left one hurting (must have twisted on the way down). Left elbow? Smarts. Left wrist? Hurts. Head? No, I did not hit my head. A partial victory!

Coping with falls

The next random thought was a strange version of an old nursery rhyme:

“Humpty Dumpty was walking down the hall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King’s men and horses were not available. And Humpty would have to get himself up by himself again.”

I wondered why I wasn't hearing the nice voice from my new medical alert device. Ah, the small print: “Not all falls will be detected by the fall alert feature.” By then, my wife was by my side and I entertained her with “Random Gravity Check”, “the floor needed a hug” and other inappropriate witticisms. Weird things happen when you rattle your brain.

Evaluating the risk factors

After I was up off the floor and seated on the couch, I did a little post-fall evaluation. I was walking without my sticks in an effort to walk a little faster and with an older gait - dream on! Slow and steady is the goal. I was finishing my 5000 steps - walking while tired is not a good plan.

I was thinking about our kitchen remodel but walking while the brain is multitasking is also not a good idea. I was not following my walking cues ... brilliant! Add catching your shoe toe on a perfectly smooth surface...meet Mr. Floor.

Back in the time before Parkinson’s, I never gave walking a second thought. I thought “walk” and I was walking. Extra thought and effort are now required to stay upright. Let’s face it. My Parkinson's and my peripheral neuropathy have progressed to the point where my walking is no longer autonomous.

Walking cues to help

As Michael J. Fox said recently, “Every step is now a frigging math problem, so I take it slow.” I do have some cues or suggestions for walking that, my recent fall aside, do tend to keep me upright and moving forward.

Walking sticks - I use them on any uneven surface and always when I’m feeling tired or foggy.

Add a task before that first step - Standing up and moving before I’m upright and stable is a fall invitation. I pull down my shirttail or adjust my belt before the first step. This seems to make sure I’m fully upright and not taking that first step before I’m ready.

Think about marching - Like some with Parkinson’s, I have a dropped foot. Toe drag is right up at the top of the list for fall causes. If I think about marching rather than walking, I seem to lift my drop foot instead of dragging it.

Walk with intent - Don’t think about things not associated with walking. My job is to get me from point A to Point B and if I have to think about every step, so be it. Avoid conversations or thinking about other things until your arrival.

Keep your head level - I keep my head up and not tilted down or forward, keeping it level and not bouncing around. That 10 to 15-pound weight hanging out in front of my feet disturbs my balance. I also use my peripheral vision or move my eyes to check the surface in front of me for obstacles.

I’m going to try to concentrate on my cues. Falling is scary and dangerous. Does anyone out there have more ideas for staying upright for me to consider?

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