This Q&A appeared today on the Parkinson's Disease Foundation website, "Ask the Expert" page. The expert gives some suggestions for home modification, useful equipment, furnishings, etc.
Q: ...Would you steer me towards some of the solutions that I have heard that others have used to modify their homes (such as self flushing toilettes, phone dialers, etc.). My specialty is in computer access and I have many ways to accomplish that but am looking into tried and true devices, designs, and methods that work. (J. M.).
A: Iâll try to offer some suggestions room-by-room.
Bathroom: Grab-bars next to the toilet (with a raised toilet seat) and in the bathtub or shower area. Add a seat in the bathtub or shower so the patient can sit while bathing. Lower the sink and mirror so that a seated person can shave, put on make-up or brush the teeth. Use non-slip, stick-on decals (rather than a bathmat) in the tub and just outside the tub to help prevent slipping while wet. Add a nightlight so no one has to enter the bathroom in total darkness.
Bedroom: Add Â¼ -bed length grab-rails near the head of the bed or an overhead trapeze pull-up for patient who may have difficulties sitting up and getting out of bed unaided. Use a bedside commode or hand-held urinal to eliminate the need to go all the way to the bathroom during the night. There are all sorts of dressing aids available to help get shoes and socks on, trousers pulled up, etc. Take favorite clothes to a good seamstress to eliminate buttons or difficult-to-use zippers and use Velcro closings instead. Add a nightlight so the patient is not in total darkness or to eliminate shadows for the confused or hallucinating patient.
Living room: Make sure the patient has a solid chair with sturdy arms and a firm but comfortable seat to sit in. Something that is too soft or allows the patient to sink too far into it will make getting up independently very difficult. Have a telephone with oversized push buttons or is voice activated for the patient who cannot easily use a more regular sized phone. A cordless phone carried in the pocket can assure the patient never gets into a situation where he/she needs help but canât summon that help. Lamps with twist-type switches can have these switches easily changed with clip-on pull switches or one can use the Clapper to turn lights on and off more easily. Get rid of throw rugs that can trip a patient who shuffles and eliminate any glass coffee tables or end tables so if the patient does fall, heâs not falling into furniture that will cut him up. Eliminate swinging doors between rooms. If possible, eliminate door sills so that a wheelchair or wheeled-walker can easily pass through the doorway.
Kitchen: There are all types of eating and/or cooking utensils that can be used â with thicker or differently shaped handled forks and knives, footed plates that donât slide, plates with rims so the food isnât pushed off the plate, non-spilling cups/glasses, etc. An angled mirror over the stove so the patient who is stooped over or in a wheelchair can see whatâs cooking at the back of the stove. Reach extenders can help to bring lighter-weighted items from high shelves without having to use a step-stool or ladder. Again, have a sturdy, wide-based, arm chair for the patient to use. Use wheeled carts to move heavier items from one part of the kitchen to another or from kitchen to dining room. Use the same stick-on, non-slip decals used in the bathroom in front of the sink so if water splashes on the floor, the patient will not slip.
House-wide: Keep rechargeable flashlights handy rather than using candles if there is a power shortage. Add grab-rails in long hallways with light switches at both ends (so the patient never has to walk in the dark). If the patient experiences any confusion, lock up items he/she should not be using alone â power tools, knives, medications, cleaning fluids, etc. and lock up rooms the patient should not be in alone (garages, basements, attics). Put a bell on outside doors so the patient cannot wander outside without others knowing heâs leaving. Use sturdy gates at stairs heads to prevent a confused patient from falling.
I hope these suggestions help. There are so many different options depending on the abilities/limitations that could be included. A conversation with an occupational therapist could suggest other possibilities.