Useful Assistive Devices for Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) can make daily living challenging. As the disease progresses, the motor symptoms such as tremor or shaking, stiffness, slow movements, and unsteady balance can make it difficult to accomplish everyday tasks, but there are many assistive devices available to make daily activities easier. Assistive devices can also help improve a person’s safety around the home and reduce the risk of falls.
Assistive devices for walking
When people with PD develop a shuffling gait or difficulty balancing, walkers or canes can provide added stability while walking. The proper fit is important in selecting a walking aid, as the height needs to support a proper posture. Straight canes work better for people with PD than tripod or quad canes. For walkers, four-wheeled walkers offer better stability for people with PD rather than those that need to be lifted. For people with late stage PD, a wheelchair or electric scooter might be needed to get around.1
Assistive devices for eating
Several companies have developed utensils that make eating easier for people who experience the tremor or shakiness of PD. Some utensils have larger, weighted handles that are easier to grip, such as those by KEatlery and Good Grips. The Liftware utensil has a sensor in the handle that neutralizes the tremor, keeping the utensil steady. Liftware reduces the shaking of the utensil by approximately 70% and works best for those with mild to moderate tremor. Knives that cut with a rocking motion, such as the Rocker Knife, make cutting food easier. Many people with PD also find it helpful to use travel cups with lids and/or straws attached, as well as plates with a scooped edge to avoid spills.2
Assistive devices for getting dressed
PD makes getting dressed challenging, particularly fastening buttons, zippers, and shoes. Assistive devices that can help include:
- Weighted Button Aid – The heavy, large grip handle of the Weighted Button Aid makes pulling a button through its hole much easier.
- Zipper pulls – Zipper pulls attach a ring to the tiny handle on zippers, making them easier to grasp and zip up or down.
- Magnetic buttons – MagnaReady provides dress shirts that have buttons on the outside that close with magnets on the inside.
- Shoes with Velcro or elastic shoelaces are easier to fasten than those with shoelaces.2,3
Assistive devices for the bathroom
There are a number of assistive devices that can help make the bathroom safer and more manageable. Bars or handrails can be added to tubs and showers to make it easier for the person living with PD to get in and out. Non-skid mats or decals are also good for reducing the risk of slipping. Tub chairs or benches can be used for sitting in the tub, and raised toilet seats or grab bars near the toilet can make it easier to sit down and get up. Electric toothbrushes and electric razors make daily grooming easier, and touch faucets can be installed that turn on water with a simple touch when turning handles becomes difficult.3,4
Assistive devices for writing
The motor symptoms of PD can make holding and using a writing instrument challenging. To make it easier, there are writing devices that are easier to grip, like the Ergo-Sof PenAgain, and Weighted Universal Holders that fit most round items like a pen, pencil, or a toothbrush. Other writing utensils are designed to help improve shaky penmanship, like the Steady Write Pen and the Poppin Pen.2
Getting professional help
Occupational therapists often work with people with PD to help them accomplish everyday tasks that are important to them, such as eating, dressing, and work activities. They may suggest changes to the environment, the task, or the person’s skills needed for the task.5