Fall events described by people with Parkinson's disease: implications for clinical interviewing and the research agenda

Physiother Res Int. 1999;4(3):190-200. doi: 10.1002/pri.165.


Background and purpose: The aim of this study was to describe the terminology used by people with Parkinson's disease (PD) when recounting falls and near-misses (fall events) and to identify the surrounding circumstances.

Method: This cross-sectional study (part of an investigation identifying risk factors for falling in PD) utilized structured interviews about falling, conducted in participants' homes. Content analysis of participants' descriptions of events was performed. Fifty-five independently mobile, community-dwelling people with PD, identified via general practices in Southampton took part in the study.

Results: Mean participant age was 71.5 years (SD = 7.6 years); mean time since diagnosis was 3.6 years (SD = 2.3 years). Thirty-four participants (62%) reported having fallen and 41 (75%) reported having nearly fallen in the previous 12 months. Recounting events, participants mentioned the location, frequency, process and landing, their activity and fall-avoidance. Falls at home, tripping, events arising when turning, falling forward, frequent near-misses and unsuccessful restoration of balance were commonly described.

Conclusions: Frequent recounting of processes, locations and landings suggest these details are memorable and easily recalled. Eliciting the activities during which events occurred, their frequency and avoidance-strategies, may necessitate probing by interviewers. An interview schedule is proposed. Aspects common to falls and near-misses, particularly turning, suggest a natural progression of activity-related falls.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mental Recall
  • Parkinson Disease / complications*
  • Parkinson Disease / psychology
  • Risk Factors