Walk with path : If the shoe fits wear it!

 

Last year the biggest PD charity in the UK, Parkinson’s UK, sent out a list of the top 50 problems People with Parkinson’s face in their day-to-day lives and asked the recipients to rate them from 1 (the worst) to 50 (the least problematic). The results showed Parkinson’s UK where it should focus its efforts. What was number 1? LOSS OF BALANCE!

In common with many PwP I struggle to get around – my driving is fine and PD does not seem to have any appreciable negative effect on it. Even so I do not go out much because it is hard work arriving at a destination when you have to struggle to exit the car and walk (with a walking stick) and still need my carers assistance to avoid falling over. It’s not flexibility or strength that is lacking, it’s going ‘off’ and feeling like I have no balance at all. Walking like this is precarious and standing still even worse – many of us suffer from ‘Freezing of Gait’ where your feet seem to be welded to the ground making movement impossible. Paradoxically, jogging and running is still possible – as my good friend Chris Onslow pointed out the faster you move the easier balance becomes. 

Most of  the time it is not practical to run around the streets or race around inside shops so is there anyway to restore at least a modicum of balance and make walking possible? Enter a company called walkwithpath.com

  Recently the East Midlands Research Support Network Steering Group had the pleasure of trying out a new device courtesy of Katlyn Green from their research and development department. The device is designed to make walking more stable for PwP and to be able to ‘step out’ of FoG (Freezing of Gait) state. To make it a fairer test I had held back taking my meds to put myself into a real ‘off’ state where walking is very difficult. I tried the device along with a couple of  my PwP colleagues and we all found a marked improvement in our walking. Of course 3 or 4 people does not constitute a scientific trial but this device has been tested repeatedly during its development  and I am not only going to recommend it but I will be buying it myself (it will be on sale within a months time).

Katlyn will encourage feedback from customers which may lead to ‘tweaking’ the design as time goes on. The device is a shoe attachment called Path Finder which projects a bright green laser line in front of your feet as you walk – a laser cane has been on sale for some time now but has to be turned on if you ‘freeze’while walking and is not bright enough outdoors on bright days to be seen. The Path Finder can be turned on before you step out of your home and stays on all day (Lithium battery lasting a couple of days before needing to be recharged). The laser line is as bright as EU regulations will allow which is bright enough to be seen outside. It is one of the odd facts to do with PwP that stepping over an imaginary line (more so if you can see a line) helps you balance – personally I thought this was exaggerated before but now I am going to buy this device so you can see how convinced I was by the try-out that it works.

Okay folks, you have the website address and a contact name – I would not hang around too long as the first production run will be limited in number and you may end up waiting quite a while before batch number 2 turns up.


5 comments

  1. Dear Lionel,
    Please forgive an ignorant question, but can you clarify what you mean by “when I am off overnight” or “three-quarters off” — does this mean when medication is wearing off? I’m doing some research into Walk with Path’s products and so am not familiar with some of the “end-user” terminology. Your blog post about Path Finder is helpful!
    Respectfully,
    Joanne

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    • Dear Joanne,
      Many thanks for your question and I would say that since we ask questions about things that we do not have the answers to, then by definition we could say any and all questions are ignorant questions. In the time I have had and studied Parkinson’s I have learned a lot about it but now have a huge pile of new questions so I definitely feel more ignorant than ever.
      To answer your inquiry: (And I apologise for writing these terms down and not explaining them; sometimes when one is immersed in a subject it is easy to assume that the rest of the world knows what one means when the vast majority certainly will not.) I am ‘off’ overnight every night because I stop taking the drugs before bedtime.’Off’ is the state that I would be in permanently if PD drugs did not exist. After 15 years of noticeable symptoms when off I struggle to stand and walk even with a frame or a walking stick. Also, when sitting down I tend to slump forward or to the left as postural muscles seem to switch off – laying flat on a bed is the only comfortable posture in that condition but it is nearly impossible to get up off a bed when off – and by morning I am of course completely off before my first dose of drugs for the day which I usually take at 6:00AM.
      Three-quarters off is indeed when the medication is wearing off and going from ‘on’ to ‘off’ is a rapid process. AT times I have sat in front of this computer I am using now and typed something that took 5 minutes then went to stand up and found ‘my legs had gone.’ ‘On’ is when one is functioning as well as they ever do which slowly but surely slides downhill over the years – I can only remember what I could do 10 years ago but much of it is impossible to do now.
      Okay Joanne I hope that explains what I meant to say and please do ask any questions that you may think of – my goal in life is to spread information about PD so you would be doing me a favour by asking. And if I cannot answer I know lots of people some of whom would probably be able to answer so either way you would get questions answered.
      Keep well!
      Lionel
      PS I do think the Path Finder device is an excellent bit of engineering and takes full advantage of the peculiar PD mind to make walking much easier.

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  2. Well here I am again and the device is now being sold and there is plenty of feedback that is positive, so I would say it is effective and worth buying – Walk with Path have a deal where you can pay a £50 deposit and £50 try-out fee for a month – if you are not happy after 28 days trying them you return the devices for a refund.
    If (much more likely) you decide to keep them you pay the remainder due.

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  3. Hi. Very interesting product. Can you compare the Path Finder to a standard walker? Which is more effecdtive at allowing balanced walking?

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    • Hello Greta and thank you for your question. A lot of preparatory testing has gone into the path finder device and there is little doubt that it does make walking easier for Parky people, but is it better than a standard walker? I will try to find out if any comparison tests have been done and let you know. On a strictly personal basis when I am off overnight I find the walker difficult to manoeuvre and it gets in the way as much as it helps. Having tried path finder when I was three-quarters off it was much easier to walk (and much,much easier to turn around)with than the walker. I do intend to try it when I am completely off. If I can still walk when fully off that will be something that I cannot do at all being overcome.
      Anyway, as it stands now I think path finder will prove to be better than a walker – certainly seemed so to me when testing it-watch this space for further results!

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