Tips for Staying Independent & Living Alone with Parkinson's
People often seem surprised that I live alone six years into Parkinson's. I actually find it easier than living with someone as you can be tired or quiet without having to be sociable. But then invite people into your space when it suits you. Below are the things I use to support my independence.
There are so many great technological advances which can help you live alone and still feel supported. There are systems with sensors that sit throughout the home that can monitor if you fall and let someone know. You can use them to look at your own behaviours too to catch if you suddenly start sleeping less or not eating properly. There are smart hubs, like Alexa, which can help you access the weather, news, and shopping lists without needing to type. There are tons of great apps that can help you get around, order food, and manage medication.
Prepare as much as you can in advance
I find it is useful to utilise the times when your symptoms are less pronounced to prepare for when times are more difficult. Living alone means you do not have a back-up person to step in and help at these times. So it makes it easier if you can have some pre-prepared necessities handy.
Batch cooking when you are well can mean you have a freezer full of healthy, satisfying dinners for when it is harder to cook. Spend time when you are ‘on’ making stews and things that freeze well or use a slow cooker to do all the work.
I also prepare all my clothes for the week in advance on a Sunday if I’m feeling agile enough. I look at my week in my calendar and pick my outfits, do up any fiddly buttons so I can slip things over my head and iron any crumples. That way it is quicker for me to get ready on my own in the morning when I’m normally extra shaky.
Don’t be ashamed to accept or pay for ad-hoc help
We may not need full-time care but it is sometimes useful and sensible to accept help. This could be something like a friend coming with you to help with your shopping or a family member offering you a lift.
There are also lots of great services online and in local communities that are designed to make life easier for people. From things like getting your ironing done to handyman/woman services all the way through to having your medication delivered to your home. These options can take the stress out of having to get to places or perform tasks when you are not at your best. There is no shame in it as these things are commonly used by people without physical challenges.
Be kind to yourself
When you live independently it is very easy to get things stuck in your head, to be unkind and too tough on yourself without anyone challenging it. Make time to look after yourself, meditate, say nice things to yourself, and be proud of your life and how you are coping. If you find yourself being unnecessarily critical of yourself imagine saying what you are saying to yourself to a young child. If you would not say it to them, do not inflict it on yourself.
Make use of visits from friends & family
There is no embarrassment in saving all those little jobs that are too hard to do for when someone taller/stronger visits. For example, ask someone to help you with jars you can not open and things you can not reach. I have been known to keep a pile of things in one place for when my more dexterous friends pop round. They really do not mind usually.
Plan for emergencies
We do not like to think about it, but sometimes if we feel a bit off colour or have a fall we might need to go to the hospital. The last thing you want at a stressful time like that is to be trying to formulate a plan. Make sure you have a hospital buddy or two who will go with you. You can be theirs in return if they ever need one. Having someone there who knows you and can keep you company during long emergency room waits is a godsend. They can also speak for you when you are too stressed to think straight. Make sure someone nearby that you trust has a copy of your house keys too.
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