Living Alone With Parkinson’s? Here’s An Expert Guide

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Managing day to day activities with Parkinson’s Disease can be a challenge, especially if you are a senior citizen living on your own. Here is an expert guide on how to manage living alone with Parkinson’s Disease.

For a person living with a progressive neurological condition like Parkinson’s Disease (PD), living alone can be especially difficult. However, there are a few benefits to it as well. So embrace those benefits and compensate for the difficulties to help cope with living alone. Read on to know more:

Making changes at home
1. Modify your home: Keep your house well lit, remove extra clutter that could obstruct walking. Add bars and railings along your house to help move around easily and prevent falls. Use chairs with arms, utilise cushions to raise the seat to facilitate sitting and getting off. Tying ropes to the head rest of your bed can help turn at night and ropes tied to a rod on the wall can help getting out of bed.
2. Modify your bathroom: Replace slippery mats with non-slip mats, add grab bars near the toilet and the shower, use toilet risers or commodes with arms to help to sit and get up easily, use soap mitts to prevent the soap from falling in the shower, use a bath scrubber with a Velcro band that you can fasten around your palm.

Managing daily activities

1. To Overcome Freezing: Freezing is a sudden and brief inability to start a movement or continue it, such as walking) 
i. Put strips of tape on the floor parallel to each other at a distance of one step. This is
especially helpful if there are specific spots where you experience freezing.
ii. Use auditory cues such as “1-2-3-STEP”, singing a song and walking to the beat of
the song etc.
iii. Use a laser cane while walking

2. To overcome fine motor difficulties:

Using a universal cuff (a cuff with an elastic strap which can be fastened around your hand and can hold the handle of an object like a spoon or comb) can help with tasks such as holding a spoon while eating, combing hair etc. Using a thick pen can help making writing easier.
3. To facilitate dressing:

To prevent falls, try sitting down while putting on your clothes. To prevent difficulties with buttoning and tying, replace shirt buttons with Velcro, use pants with elastic rather than buttons, use slip on shoes or shoes with Velcro.

4. Organising your medicines:

i. Make it simpler to remember names of medicines,dosages and timings by keeping your prescription handy.

ii. Using a weekly medicine box to store your medicines for the entire week helps keeping track of what dose you have taken. If you are likely to forget to take your medicines, set alarms.

5. Asking for help:

While it is good to be independent as you keep yourself active, there may be some instances where you need help. It is important to accept this and ask for help when required. You might need to hire help to clean your house, to cook, or to look after you.

6. Take charge of your handwriting:

Getting a letter from a neurologist stating that changes in handwriting/ inability to write are a part of Parkinson’s Disease, will help you get allowances from your bank for changes in your handwriting/signature.

Managing Travel
1. Identification: Keep an identification card in your wallet or purse with your name, stating that you have PD, an emergency contact number and your Parkinson’s medications on it for any untoward situation. Store important contact details in your cell phone in case of an emergency.
2. Use assistive aids: If you have severe balance difficulties or tend to fall frequently, it is advisable for you to use a walking stick or a walker when you leave the house.
3. Using public transport: Applying for a disability certificate could help get benefits while
travelling. Utilise seats reserved for the elderly and disabled in buses. For short distances, try to get the contact number of a taxi/auto person in your area who would be willing to drop and pick you up.
4. Avoid queues and crowds: Waiting in long queues or shopping in extremely crowded places tends to increase the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Many places have separate queues for senior citizens, utilise such facilities or try shopping in the afternoon or at a time when it is likely that there would be less rush.

Managing your physical health and mood
1. Stay active: Stay active by meeting up with friends and family, taking up a hobby or a sport etc.
2. Exercise: Along with taking medication, it is important to engage in some kind of physical exercise such as walking, swimming or physiotherapy to help with your symptoms.
3. Join a support group: Joining a support group can help you to make more friends with people who have the same condition as you do. This can help to keep away loneliness, can help you to form new friends and share ideas and tips about your fight against Parkinson’s.
4. Counselling: Sometimes staying alone might cause loneliness and depression. If you feel that your mood does not improve even after talking to a friend, you might want to get professional help.

To know more about Parkinson’s Disease Support Groups across India, click here and here.

About Author

Nishaat Mukadam

Nishaat Mukadam is Clinical Psychologist, The Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Society (PDMDS), Mumbai. This is part of a series of features on Parkinson's Disease and how to cope with it.