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.