Falls, what can I do?
Falls are a surprisingly common event for people suffering from a progressive illness.
I have extremely bad balance foot drop in my left leg. The question is quite simple, ‘What can I do to reduce the chances of having a fall?’ I’m constantly improving my strategy in an attempt to stay on my feet and not to fall over.
Learning the hard way
Until very recently I have been spectacularly successful at falling over. I’ve ripped the knees of numerous pairs of jeans. Grazed my hands and elbows on several occasions. I knackered the knuckle of a finger on my right hand. I have even dislocated my left shoulder twice within fifteen months.
Now I need an operation to stabilise my shoulder and fix the rotator cuff, afterwards my arm will be in a sling for six weeks. It is the shoulder problems that has rammed home the importance of not falling over.
My brain is telling my body what to do but the body cannot do it and this causes falls. Realizing that I cannot walk and talk was a big step forward. When I fall I can no longer afford to trust to luck and hope that everything will be OK. I am a living example of why that process does not work.
A very real problem is realizing that my balance is not as good as it was last month or last year. My strategy is constantly evolving because the disease is progressive. Its a bit of a moving target. I do not want to permanently lose my independence through thoughtlessness.
I have 3 items that help my balance and walking
- I bought a MuSMate in 2007, this helps to lift the leg with foot drop as I walk
- I bought my first rollator in 2010 and use it when walking outside. Now I use one indoors as well. It helps me to keep my balance and minimises the number of falls.
- I was fitted with an ankle-foot-orthosis in Autumn 2013 and this makes my left foot much more stable.
I am now an MSer who has the potential to be a frequent faller, not the most exciting by-line. I still need to think about my balance and movement as well as using the devices that I have just mentioned.
SLP – Stop, Look around and then Plan
Take this typical scenario. I’ve been sitting down watching the TV or surfing on the internet and now I need to go to the loo. Before I try to move I have trained myself to look around and plan my route. When I stand up and stretch my legs I’m likely to be unsteady. So when I get up there must be something solid to help me keep my balance.
Once I’m vertical I think about my posture, look around and make sure there is something that I can use as support. If I am working at my desk, when I stand up it still provides support and reduce the chances of falling over. There are always problems if I have been sitting on the sofa; it takes a big effort just to stand up.
I’ve only given my story. If you want to find out more take a look at the Falls booklet issued by the Multiple Sclerosis Trust. It is an excellent starting point.