Home Safety for Parkinson’s Disease

May 9, 2024

Nearly 1 million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease, with about 90,000 new diagnoses given each year, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. And while there are hundreds of thousands of adults living with a Parkinson’s diagnosis in their family, when your loved one is diagnosed, it is easy to feel isolated and unsure of what to do next.


While you and your loved one begin to sift through the emotions that come with a Parkinson’s diagnosis, it is important to also focus on concrete tasks you can complete that will keep your loved one safe and healthy for as long as possible. Here’s how you can adjust your loved one’s environment in order to meet this goal.


Focus on Fall Prevention

With about 60% of people living with Parkinson’s falling each year, home safety becomes a priority for most family members and physicians. Because Parkinson’s is a movement disorder, fall prevention begins with ensuring the person has the right mobility aids that will support their movements throughout the home.


Quick Tips

  • Ensure your loved one has, and is using, the right mobility aid for their needs
  • Work with a physical therapist to fit the mobility aid to your loved one’s body, and to learn how to use it appropriately. Family members should attend therapy sessions as well so they can learn the right verbal and physical cues that will encourage correct and safe usage
  • Bring mobility devices with you if you take your loved one out of the home to an appointment, out to lunch, etc.
  • Make sure your loved one has stable and properly fitting shoes. Skip slippery soles, unsupportive sandals, and socks without grip.
  • Work with an occupational therapist to outfit the home with any adaptive devices, such as a shower chair or grab bars.


Strength Train

There’s been a recent push, directed by research, to get people living with Parkinson’s involved in resistance training multiple times per week. Strength training can help to prevent falls and injury, as well as to maintain quality of life for as long as possible. 


Quick Tips

  • Get a referral for physical therapy from your loved one’s physician
  • Work with a physical therapist to make an exercise plan that can be followed at home or in a local gym
  • Encourage your loved one to practice resistance training when with others, such as when you visit or when their home caregiver is there
  • Exercises should be done 2-3 times per week in order to be most effective


Talk About Anxiety

Anxiety regarding “freezing”, a common symptom of Parkinson’s disease, is common for those living with the condition. This anxiety can end up contributing to a more sedentary lifestyle as well as a decreased quality of life.


Quick Tips

  • Talk to your loved one’s physician about the symptoms of anxiety you see, including when you see them
  • Candidly talk with your loved one about their mental health and where they are struggling
  • Consider medications to reduce anxiety 
  • Boost confidence by encouraging gratitude journaling
  • Work with a counselor who has experience working with people living with Parkinson’s disease


Get Pain Under Control

Research has demonstrated that people living with Parkinson’s disease experience more pain than peers living without the condition. Pain can lead to depression, decreased quality of life, and a more isolated lifestyle.


Quick Tips

  • Talk to your loved one’s physician about pain symptoms that you can watch for
  • Encourage your loved one to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10 multiple times per day, such as at meals and then before bed. Keep this information in a journal so you can look for trends.
  • Look for nonverbal signs of pain
  • Remind your loved one that they don’t have to “deal with it” when it comes to pain
  • Work with a physician to find a pain management routine that works and adjusts to your loved one’s needs


Have an Emergency Plan

If your loved one has a crisis or emergency, they need to know what to do in order to get the support they need right away. Make sure family members know the emergency plans, and that the plan adjusts as your loved one’s needs change.


Quick Tips

  • Invest in a medical alert device that meets your loved one’s needs. Find one that they will consistently wear and that is easy for them to use.
  • Complete a Vial of Life and post it in the home so that first responders have access to emergency information 
  • Work with your loved one to develop a check-in plan. Perhaps they text you every morning after breakfast and your sister after dinner. A missed text prompts a call to ensure they are safe.
  • If your loved one has neighbors they know and trust, ensure they have a few family caregiver phone numbers accessible so they can report any emergencies or concerns.


Keeping safety at the forefront of your family’s decisions will ensure your loved one can pursue a high quality of life in the face of Parkinson’s disease. 


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