Adapting Your Home for Parkinson's Disease

Effects from Parkinson's disease, such as fatigue and difficulties getting around, can make activities of daily living -- including leisure activities -- more difficult. The following tips will help you learn to function independently and successfully in your home.

General Safety Guidelines:

  • Have emergency numbers (police, fire, poison control, and a neighbor's phone number) readily available in case of emergency. One idea is to write these numbers on stickers and put them on all phone receivers.
  • Have at least one phone located where it is always accessible. Keep a cordless phone in your pocket at all times. This is especially important if you fall and can't get up to use the phone.
  • Make sure smoke detectors work properly.
  • Avoid the use of space heaters and electric blankets; these are fire hazards.

How Can Assistive Devices and Adaptive Equipment Help?

Along with appropriate medications, exercise, and other management techniques, adaptive equipment can help you maintain your independence if you have Parkinson's disease. An occupational therapist or rehabilitation specialist can recommend a variety of assistive devices that are designed to make home care and daily activities more comfortable. Some examples include:

  • Built-up utensils
  • Grab bars
  • Devices to help you reach
  • Electric beds or mattresses
  • Sliding boards
  • Wheelchairs

How Can I Adapt My Home to Make It Easier to Live In?

The following is a list of the most common recommendations that can help people with Parkinson's disease adapt their home to meet daily challenges.

Note: Not all of these recommendations may benefit your personal situation. Your occupational therapist or rehabilitation specialist can help determine which of these recommendations are best for you.

Tips for adapting your living room and bedrooms:

  • To give yourself plenty of space to move around in, place furniture with wide spaces in between.
  • If possible, arrange furniture so outlets are available for lamps and appliances without the need for extension cords. If extension cords are used, make sure they are secured with tape and out of the way so you don't trip on them.
  • Use chairs with straight backs, armrests, and firm seats, this will make it much easier for you to get up and sit down. Add firm cushions to existing pieces to add height and make it easier to move.
  • Invest in touchable lamps or those that react to sound.
  • Adapt your phone by changing the small buttons to larger push buttons for ease dialing. Have frequently called numbers entered into speed dial.
  • Install handrails along walls, hallways, and stairwells where there is nothing to hold on to.
  • Objects such as a stationary pole or "trapeze" bar can be installed if you have difficulty getting out of bed.
  • If you have a lot of difficulty getting in and out of bed, try sleeping in a reclining chair.

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Tips for adapting your bathroom:

  • Use an elevated toilet seat and/or safety rails to assist standing from a low surface. Do not use towel racks or bathroom tissue holders to help you stand.
  • Put extended lever handles on faucets to make them easier to turn.
  • Install grab bars inside and outside the bathtub or shower.
  • Use a bathtub transfer bench or a shower chair with a back support.
  • Put a non-skid mat or decals in the bath tub.
  • Get rid of small bathroom mats that may cause you to trip, instead purchase a large rug that covers most of the floor, and apply non-stick backing or install wall-to-wall carpeting.

Tips for adapting your kitchen:

  • Have at least one counter workspace that has been lowered so you can reach it from a sitting position.
  • Use an electric jar opener for tightly sealed containers.
  • Don't close jar lids or containers too tight once they have been opened.
  • Use an extended lever to assist with lift-tab cans.
  • Use pans with a wide base that cannot be knocked over easily.
  • Use a food processor for vegetable cutting and peeling.
  • Use plastic containers to avoid breakage.
  • Use a non-skid mat to stabilize bowls and plates.
  • Store food and beverages (such as milk or juice) in small, easy to manage containers.
  • Place utensils, pots, pans, and measuring cups on a peg board or in an accessible cupboard instead of in lower cupboards which require bending. Sit when getting things out of lower cupboards.
  • Use a spike board to stabilize vegetables, fruit, and potatoes so you have both hands free to peel or chop them.
  • Use two hands to pour liquids.
  • Use scissors to open cellophane packages.
  • Use a box top opener to open boxes.
  • Use electrical appliances whenever possible.

Other tips:

Make your environment as comfortable and sensory pleasing as possible. Use colors you find soothing to decorate, use scented candles or potpourri in fragrances that relax you.

Keep photos and music around that uplift your spirit. If you find you would like company during the day consider a pet such as a bird, a fish, or a cat. If you are concerned about daily care, surround yourself with plants or flowers. Make sure the temperature and climate are suitable to your sensitivities. The more comfortable and uplifting your environment is, the more positive your attitude will be!

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on October 09, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research: "Living With Parkinson's."

National Parkinson Foundation: "Living Well."

National Parkinson Foundation: "Activities of Daily Living."

We Move: "Parkinson's Disease Information."

National Parkinson Foundation: "Managing Advanced Parkinson's Disease."

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