Person nervously biting nails as adaptive tools (walker, Adaptive shoe and adaptive spoon) are around them

On Adaptive Tools, Pride, and Parkinson’s

Last year, I sent my dad a pair of adaptive shoes and an adaptive (magnetic) shirt, thinking that they might be able to take some of the frustration out of dressing. Before I sent his package, I asked him if he’d like to test this style of clothing out. He said "no."

His reasoning with this kind of thing is often that "he’s not ready." Or that his version of Parkinson’s isn’t bad enough yet. I’m not quite sure if he gets into this mental headspace because he wants to save adaptive tools until a later date, if he’s resistant to change, or if it’s his pride. But the ironic thing is that after I sent his package, he quickly fell in love with his shoes.

A few months after wearing them, it was actually my mom that told me that Dad thought his shoes were the best gift he’d ever received. He loved the traction they provided. The shoes still looked like normal athletic shoes, featuring laces (that don’t have to be tied), and a sporty appearance. But they take the hassle out of the picture, allowing him to simply slip his feet inside of the shoes and then begin his day.

Exposure to new adaptive tools

Before I introduced adaptive clothing into Dad’s life, I asked him if he’d like a Parkinson’s spoon – or a utensil that is designed to reduce the impact of tremors as you eat. Dad shook his head, reiterating the previous mentioned sentiments. He wasn’t ready for the spoon.

But his recent reaction to adaptive shoes has me wondering if he just needs a bit of exposure to new tools in order to embrace them. Maybe, if I just send the spoon to his house, he’ll crack open the box and experiment, and determine for himself whether or not it makes a difference in his life.

My mom uses a similar strategy with a walker. She uses it around the house occasionally, normalizing it. And now, during particularly "off periods," Dad seems more willing to use the walker to get from point A to point B.

Straying from the norm

There’s a popular adage that goes something like: "Jump, and the net will appear." And I’ve recently found myself wondering if the same logic applies to using adaptive tools. Or maybe, in Dad’s case, it’d be more like "see the tool, use the tool."

I would imagine that most of these topics revolve around pride. Who wants to feel themselves declining? Or to be seen straying from the norm by using unique tools? Humans are, by nature, communal creatures, which drives the need to create a certain level of "sameness." So, looking different, or changing your behaviors can feel biologically disruptive (because you might not seem like you’re part of the tribe if you stray from the norm.)

Creating the best life possible

I’m of the belief that if there are tools that can improve your life, you should use them. In the same way that we exercise and eat well to create healthier lives, I think we can also choose specific tools and strategies to support ourselves – even if nobody else is using those tools and strategies. And the funny thing is that once you start using those tools, others usually follow. You become a trend-setter, creating a community surrounding adaptive strategies that may have previously seemed taboo.

I can’t speak for my dad. I know that he experiences a lot of things that are difficult or impossible for me to understand. But I really like the idea of supporting an environment where he can create the best life possible for himself. And maybe adaptive tools can help with this process.

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