In recent weeks, Mum has become more unstable on her feet and, as many of you living with MND will know, some falls are almost to be expected. Thursday just seemed to be one of those days, with two tumbles in one day, but it wasn’t her first.
We’ve known for some time that her left ankle is weaker than her right, and she wears an ankle support to help her walk around the house. It’s so important for her to be up and about for as long as possible – not just because gentle exercise is thought to (perhaps) slow down the progression, but it also prevents the development of sores and, crucially, gives her some small independence. When you have to accept help more and more often, being able to simply walk around your flat makes you feel better.
Any assistance she needs to keep her up and walking for as long as possible is greatly welcome. She has been wearing the ankle support for a few months now, but we have also invested in some walking sticks for her. It seems so strange – those sticks remind me of my great-grandfather, and seeing my mum depend on them doesn’t seem right. But they keep her walking, and that’s all that matters.
Until last week, she just had a normal, adjustable walking stick. She only uses it internally – especially now that she can get into The Tank indoors and drive out the front door. However, she was struggling to balance, so we got a new stick, one that splits into four legs at the bottom. It arrived last week, and we immediately saw that she was stronger on her feet with it.
So, that brings us right up to Thursday. The day of her second, and third fall.
The first occurred before Christmas, and it was scary. The weakness in her legs was obvious, but when she went into the kitchen without her ankle support, turned too fast and fell against the wall, we were all shocked. She’d pulled her PEG and it was bleeding. She’d hit her head quite hard. Nobody could get her up because her legs couldn’t support her, so she was stranded on the floor for over an hour, until an ambulance finally came.
I was in London, and there was nothing I could do. It’s times like that when I really hate being so far away. I was comforted knowing that our pug sat beside her until the ambulance came, and my sister was soon with her. But it was still a long day.
The first fall on Thursday was only small. She went to put her ankle support on when she got out of bed in the morning, and she fell. Her arms aren’t strong enough to pull herself up, but her husband managed to get her onto the bed – no damage done. She wasn’t hurt and, besides, she was on her way to hospital for her MND clinic anyway.
The second was a shock. It happened in the evening. Mum left the living room to go to the bathroom. The door was about to slam and, wary of the fact she now has someone living above her in the flat upstairs, she went to stop it slamming, lost her balance, and fell.
The nurse was called to check the PEG; it was bleeding again. She’d hit her head and caught her fingers in the door, but thankfully they’re fine. The PEG was fine too, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially considering that’s how she takes her medication.
The nurse has recommended Mum gets a frame for walking, so that week-old walking stick hasn’t had enough time to become invaluable to us. It’s a shame, and I won’t pretend to like the idea that she needs that much support just to walk from the living room to the bathroom.
We know these falls are to be expected, and we take measures to prevent them wherever possible. Each fall leads us to reassess what more we can do. We’re looking into anti-slam catches for the doors and handrails, something for her to grab hold of if she thinks she’s going to fall. We’ll get the walking frame (apparently you can get ones with trays on, so Mum will be playing waitress and bringing me cups of tea). We’ll do whatever we can to make sure she has the best possible quality of life.
These falls are scary when they happen, although the very first is probably the worst. We have to treat every experience as one to learn from, and to learn quickly, as Mum’s MND tries to outrun us. It hasn’t succeeded yet.