Making Simple Home Adjustments
Watching my Dad’s difficulties shift and change with the progression of Parkinson’s disease (PD) is heartbreaking. He was once the strongest person in the house, lifting his kids with little effort. Today, he’s a little less strong. I grab his arm while we’re navigating an icy sidewalk. I volunteer to fetch him various items if he doesn’t want to brave the journey. I even help him navigate electronics when he wants the help.
As his abilities change, I wonder if there are steps that we can take to reduce common risks associated with Parkinson's. For example, balance is one of the trickiest qualities to maintain while living with PD. It isn’t uncommon for patients to fall many times while struggling with the disease. Are there things we can do to lower the fall-risk? And are there additional ways we might simplify his life?
Adding a chair in the shower can help to minimize fall risks. We found that arranging the furniture to provide a wide corridor (while also giving my Dad furniture to lean on when he walks) has been helpful. And keeping the path clear seems to minimize the freezing episodes, which come with a lot of instability.1
Using weighted items may help to manage the intensity of your tremors. For example, some Parkinson's patients swear by using an electric toothbrush or the Liftware spoon/fork. The added weight of these items may reduce the intensity of tremors. Some PD patients also use wrist weights in order to complete certain tasks.1
Some people may also benefit from the use of weighted knives in the kitchen. Additionally, you can often find plates with ridges on them or potholders in order to keep everything upright. And weighted cups can reduce the spill risk.1
As technology progresses, it’s becoming easier to customize it to fit your needs. I got my Dad an Echo Dot (Alexa) for Christmas, and he’s already using it to turn the lights on and off. Devices like these can also be used to control smart plugs, special door locks, garage doors, and the coffee pot. Once this network is set up, all you have to do is speak to the Echo Dot (or smart home or google home) to make adjustments.
My Dad has also begun to use his smartphone in new ways. Since he struggles to click particular buttons on the screen, he often relies on the “talk to text” mode. By enabling this function, he can still text his kids or send a message without becoming frustrated at his inability to type.
Using a long shoe horn can help you to slip your shoes with more ease. Some people like to replace buttons on their clothing with snaps or velcro pieces in order to simplify the dressing process. It’s also possible to find locking laces, which prevent you from worrying about tripping on your own shoes.1
Larger home installations for Parkinson's
Oddly, the house that my parents live in right now used to belong to a man who had Parkinson's. So, we were lucky enough to benefit from his pre-installed grab bars. There's one by the back door and a few in the bathroom. As the disease progresses, we may make additional changes in order to keep my Dad as safe as possible.
Do you participate in a support group for PD?