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How to adapt your home if you have Parkinson’s

Keeping your loved one safely at home

If you or a loved one are living with Parkinson’s disease, your home may need adaptations to ensure that you can live as safely and independently as possible. This article will look at the equipment that could be installed in your home and the alternative everyday items you could use to help you remain comfortable.

1. Focus on safety

There are safety features that should be installed in every home, such as smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms, but these are even more important when you have restricted mobility as they should give you a crucial, timely warning that something isn’t right. Your local fire station should be able to give you advice on what detectors to buy and where to install them, and some districts even offer an installation service for people who are living with disabilities, so it’s worth asking them if you don’t have alarms, or if you’re not sure your current detectors are suitable.

2. Make communication easily accessible

It’s essential that you have a phone within easy reach of you when living with Parkinson’s, because there may be an occasion when you need to call for help from a loved one or the emergency services. It’s also important so that you can keep in regular touch with family who may live further away. There are phones and accessories that can be purchased to make keeping in touch easier for a person experiencing hand tremors, such as large button models, speakerphone options, so the handset doesn’t have to be held, and amplifiers if the volume is too low. It’s also sensible to have important numbers programmed into the phone so that they can be called quickly and have them written down next to the phone for added reassurance.

3. Use adaptive products

Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, and as symptoms become worse, it may be necessary to adapt certain parts of the house so that you can remain living where you love. These adaptations can also help you retain more independence at home, which is important for your mental and physical wellbeing. Having the option to do tasks for yourself, rather than rely on someone else, can be valuable, such as rails in the bathroom that means you can conduct your own personal care, or a long-handled grabber that enables you to pick up dropped items. Other useful equipment could include a walker or wheelchair so that you still get to leave the house when you wish to, as well as grips that make holding things easier, such as a pen or cutlery.

4. Update living areas

Walking around the house can become difficult when living with Parkinson’s, especially if there are no rails or furniture to hold on to for support. Too much furniture or clutter can also be a hazard and limit mobility, so rooms should try and be streamlined so that there are ample walkways or space for a wheelchair. It is also best to remove rugs, as this is one of the main trip hazards at home. This ensures you can move around your house more independently and don’t have to wait until someone else is with you. Adaptions can be recommended by an occupational therapist, who can suggest the best ways to rearrange your living space so that you remain as independent as possible.

5. Safe kitchen

There are many easy measures that can make your kitchen more functional when living with Parkinson’s, and therefore keep you independent for longer at home. Items you use daily should be stored on lower shelves so that they’re within easy reach and decanted into smaller containers that you will find easier to hold. Mugs could be left on a countertop for making drinks throughout the day or hung on a hook just above the surface if you don’t like cluttered surfaces. Kettles can also be tricky to lift when filled with water so consider buying a smaller capacity one or invest in a frame that supports your kettle while pouring and reduces the risk of dangerous burns or scalds. Forks and spoons can be adapted with grip handles so they’re easier to use, and non-slip mats can be placed under bowls and plates so that you can feed yourself for longer. It may also be helpful to have a lower kitchen worktop installed so that you are able to reach items more easily from a wheelchair.

6. Adapted bathroom

Grab rails can be extremely useful to enable you to use your bathroom more independently, as can a shower chair, or device to lower you safely in and out of the bath. A fully adapted wet room can be amazing for someone struggling with their mobility as it negates the need for a separate shower cubicle or getting into a bath, plus it is usually easier to access in a wheelchair. These can be costly though, and not always practical. Upright bathtubs that you sit in and access via a door have become more popular in recent years and will take up less space than a regular bath, and even items like properly secured mats can help so that there is less danger of slipping.

7. Bedroom and sleeping adjustments

If falling out of bed is a concern, then bed rails may be a satisfactory answer. Due to entrapment risks, they should be assessed by an occupational therapist and supplied and fitted by a qualified provider. Also, climbing over them can lead to falls.

Other pieces of equipment exist to help you get out of bed more accessible, such as a rotunda or turntable turning aid. However, these often need to be operated with two people, which means they may not be suitable for independent use as they can increase the risk of falls. Even the material of your bedding can make a difference as it may be harder to manoeuvre against thick sheets such as flannel, whereas thinner materials may make it easier to move around in bed. Too many heavy blankets may also limit your mobility, whereas a lighter duvet may provide just as much warmth and be easier to move. Keep trip hazards out of your walkway between bed and bathroom too, especially if you don’t want to switch on a light that would disturb a partner who is asleep. Rugs and other risks should be moved to a more suitable location or removed altogether. A low-wattage light could be useful for getting up at night too.

Ultimately, the best way to remain independent for longer at home may be to have some element of professional home care services to support you with the more difficult tasks, especially as your Parkinson’s progresses. Helping Hands have been supporting customers living with Parkinson’s for over 30 years, so we are highly experienced in helping you live your safest and most comfortable life at home. We offer care on both a visiting and live-in basis, and with support starting from just 30 minutes per week, our fully managed services will always keep you at the centre of your care requirements. We’re also fully regulated by the Care Quality Commission and Care Inspectorate Wales, so you’ll always be in safe hands with us.

Page reviewed by Carole Kerton-Church, Regional Clinical Lead on April 4, 2023