The Perfect Christmas Gift for Someone With Parkinson's
“What do you want for Christmas,” the text lights up on my phone after I hit ‘send.’ I see the ellipses appear on the screen to indicate that my Dad is in the process of responding.
“A new body,” he says.
I’m sad to see the words on the screen. Of course, he does. Parkinson's Disease (PD) is completely relentless. Every day offers new challenges, causing my Dad to struggle with basic tasks.
I know he’s joking, but the truth in his joke makes me wish I could reduce the suffering. “Ok, what else do you want for Christmas?” I ask.
“A cure for Parkinson's.” He quips.
Life revolves around Parkinson's
I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry at the seriousness of this conversation. What, for me, is a disease that I see written on my Dad throughout the day, is a lifelong sentence for him. Every waking moment revolves around his PD schedule.
I know that he’s feeling sassy, trying to get me to laugh with him. But the darkness of his jokes grip me in an unsettling way. It’s clear that he’s not going to tell me what he really wants for Christmas. So, I guess I’m on my own for this journey!
Finding the perfect gift
While I scroll through commercial pages on the internet, I ask myself if there’s something that my Dad would both like and find useful while battling PD. Maybe he could use wide light switches that are easier to grasp when his hands shake. Perhaps he’d appreciate something that’ll help him with balance.
Last year, I saw a variety of cups that are designed for people who struggle with tremors. But, at the time, most of them were akin to kids’ sippy cups. The idea seemed nice, but the execution was disappointing. Who would want to invest in something so humiliating?
My scrolling comes to a halt when I see the perfect gift: The Echo Dot.
When Amazon originally released the Echo Dot in 2016, it was received with both skepticism and acclaim. This puck-shaped speaker is equipped with Alexa - a robotic application that’s designed to be controlled by your voice.
Those who received the speaker with skepticism pointed to the fact that Alexa could always be listening. And what an intrusion that might be! Others believed that Alexa might be the future of technology, allowing us to talk to devices like televisions and night lights.
Technology as a tool
Earlier this year, our family rented out a vacation house on Lake Huron to get away from the madness for a while. In the house, there was an Echo Dot sitting next to the phone.
It wasn’t long before my Dad was asking the device about the news and the weather. And seeing the interaction caused the wheels in my brain to start turning. What if we could use technology to our advantage?
As Dad’s abilities decline, we can connect an Echo Dot to smart lightbulbs in order to give him the ability to turn off the light with his voice. You can also connect this device to garage door openers, coffee pots, and any other compatible technology.
Maybe Alexa is always listening. But, in my Dad’s case, the assistance might be worth the risk. I’m prepared to give it a shot!
Do you participate in a support group for PD?