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Life Adjustments For Parkinson's

Modifying Common Areas For Parkinson's

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, meaning that the patient’s condition will decline over time. There is currently no known cure to effectively stop or slow down the disease. The patient and family need to understand that the adaptation and changes to the living environment will more than likely change over time with evolving needs linked to the current level of disability. Adaptations that work today or next month will need to be reviewed regularly.

General

Safety concerns

The safety and function of the patient should be the primary goal. The stage of the disease that your loved one falls in to will dictate the extent of these guidelines and advice.
Falls should be a primary concern; 38% of loved ones diagnosed with this disease will fall every year. These falls can result in significant injuries and lead to head, muscle, bone, and organ trauma that can be debilitating. Occasionally, this may result in your loved one being bedridden for the rest of their life or inducing a set of multiple health complications leading to death.

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Recommended Products for Parkinson’s Living Area Adjustments

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Making

Space

Avoiding clutter is a must for safety. Concentrate on reorganizing clutter prone areas like medicine cabinets, closets, and kitchen cupboards. Placing all items between hip height and eye level is key to avoiding unnecessary bending, reaching, and lifting. Consulting a PT or OT may help you determine which movements are safe for your loved one.
As you already know, people who live with Parkinson’s use assistive devices to help them move around, such as canes, walkers, rolling walkers, and wheelchairs. Depending on the stage of the disease, a Parkinson’s specific walker such as a U-step or an UP Walker Lite might be much more appropriate as they are incredibly stable, are more fitting to the physical limitations and allow for much better control. But finding the right fit for the individual is of the utmost importance.
It is essential to facilitate ambulation and movement around the living space by clearing all pathways and hallways to make them as wide as possible, allowing the patient to maneuver the device.
To allow for that, removing or arranging furniture is a must. Furniture should be well spaced out, allowing for freedom of mobility as much as possible. Consider using various methods to secure furniture to the ground to avoid it getting bumped out of place.

ADjusting

Living Areas

If your loved one uses a wheelchair, all furniture should be placed at least 5.5 feet apart, which is the minimum distance to ensure that a 360° turn can be completed.
The most essential and most natural change to make is ensuring the floor and carpeting are even and not thick to provide safe maneuvering of assistive devices and prevent tripping over thresholds. Hard flooring surfaces are not recommended as they can quickly become slippery. It is also advisable to remove as many throw rugs as possible. Limiting the amount of rugs is appropriate, and rugs should always be placed over non-slip mats with taped down corners.
Make sure that all rooms are accessible in one path, and your parent does not have to go through a maze of furniture and debris. It might be tough to change this, but decorative objects can represent a significant tripping hazard and lead to a fall; floor vases, statues, and side tables should be avoided as they can be challenging to navigate around. The compromise would be to place them against the wall well outside of the main path and walkway.
Use only chairs with armrests to assist your parents in transfers. Loved ones with advanced Parkinson’s might be appropriate for adjustable/mechanical chairs/recliners. As professionals, we believe these should be used as a last resort, as they will only make the person weaker from not practicing getting up from a chair frequently and not using their muscles and joints appropriately.
A secure method to allow your parent to use a pre-existing chair that may have a lower seat is to add a firm seat cushion, adding the additional needed height to the chair.

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ADjusting

Living Areas

If your loved one uses a wheelchair, all furniture should be placed at least 5.5 feet apart, which is the minimum distance to ensure that a 360° turn can be completed.
The most essential and most natural change to make is ensuring the floor and carpeting are even and not thick to provide safe maneuvering of assistive devices and prevent tripping over thresholds. Hard flooring surfaces are not recommended as they can quickly become slippery. It is also advisable to remove as many throw rugs as possible. Limiting the amount of rugs is appropriate, and rugs should always be placed over non-slip mats with taped down corners.
Make sure that all rooms are accessible in one path, and your parent does not have to go through a maze of furniture and debris. It might be tough to change this, but decorative objects can represent a significant tripping hazard and lead to a fall; floor vases, statues, and side tables should be avoided as they can be challenging to navigate around. The compromise would be to place them against the wall well outside of the main path and walkway.
Use only chairs with armrests to assist your parents in transfers. Loved ones with advanced Parkinson’s might be appropriate for adjustable/mechanical chairs/recliners. As professionals, we believe these should be used as a last resort, as they will only make the person weaker from not practicing getting up from a chair frequently and not using their muscles and joints appropriately.
A secure method to allow your parent to use a pre-existing chair that may have a lower seat is to add a firm seat cushion, adding the additional needed height to the chair.

Adjusting

Living Areas

If your loved one uses a wheelchair, all furniture should be placed at least 5.5 feet apart, which is the minimum distance to ensure that a 360° turn can be completed.
The most essential and most natural change to make is ensuring the floor and carpeting are even and not thick to provide safe maneuvering of assistive devices and prevent tripping over thresholds. Hard flooring surfaces are not recommended as they can quickly become slippery. It is also advisable to remove as many throw rugs as possible. Limiting the amount of rugs is appropriate, and rugs should always be placed over non-slip mats with taped down corners.
Make sure that all rooms are accessible in one path, and your parent does not have to go through a maze of furniture and debris. It might be tough to change this, but decorative objects can represent a significant tripping hazard and lead to a fall; floor vases, statues, and side tables should be avoided as they can be challenging to navigate around. The compromise would be to place them against the wall well outside of the main path and walkway.
Use only chairs with armrests to assist your parents in transfers. Loved ones with advanced Parkinson’s might be appropriate for adjustable/mechanical chairs/recliners. As professionals, we believe these should be used as a last resort, as they will only make the person weaker from not practicing getting up from a chair frequently and not using their muscles and joints appropriately.
A secure method to allow your parent to use a pre-existing chair that may have a lower seat is to add a firm seat cushion, adding the additional needed height to the chair.

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Lighting

and entrances

Lighting in the home plays an essential role in safety, and all places in the house should be well lit to ensure loved ones can see their path correctly and avoid running into walls or furniture. Floor lamps should be kept out of the way to prevent tipping and ensure there are no electrical cords of any kind in the path. Installing motion or voice/ noise activated light sensors may also be a great option throughout the house to provide necessary lighting at any time, with no need to reach for a switch. New technologies, such as Wi-Fi operated lights, are becoming more ubiquitous and can present great solutions for parents as well.
Widening doorways and altering access pathways will make a big difference for mobility. Consider removing your door stops to allow for an extra inch of width between doorways. Doorway access should be ideally 36 inches wide but no less than a diameter of 30 inches.
Using offset door hinges on the door will also allow for two extra inches of space without the time, effort, and expense of modifying the door frame.
For homes with stairs, please note that stairs are a common location for falls, especially if inappropriately lit. Installing handrails is a must for any loved one living with Parkinson’s. Ideally, both sides should have rails, but depending on the mobility and strength of the person, railings on one side might suffice. Also, consider the surface of the stairs: if they are wood stairs, they may be very slippery and covering them with skid-resistant texture may be helpful.

Pierre-Yves Butheau, MPT,CMP

Pierre-Yves Butheau, MPT,CMP

A native of Lyon, France, Pierre graduated with a Master Of Physical Therapy from the University of Florida in 2002.
He moved to Seattle shortly after a trip to the PNW, and has worked with varied patient populations, from 5 to 107 years old, in orthopedics, neurologic, sports, geriatrics and pain clinics settings.

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