By Guest Blogger Jim Vogel
There are an estimated 60,000 Americans diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) each year, and the illness seems to be especially prominent in the senior population. As a result, many families are opening their homes to elder loved ones with Parkinson’s rather than opting for them to live on their own (which can create dangerous circumstances as the disease progresses) or in a senior care facility. The disease can make some everyday, seemingly-harmless tasks become hazardous. Chopping vegetables in the kitchen, for example, is a greater risk. Falls (anywhere in the house) are a very real threat.
If you are one of the generous individuals acting as a caregiver for your ailing loved one, there are several ways to make this transition easier for both of you. Here are a few tips on how to get your home ready for your newest resident:
Start with simple adjustments in each room of the house.
This guide from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research offers advice for quick, cost-effective tweaks that will help protect your loved one. For example, remove any power cords or loose rugs from the floor that may make getting around even more difficult for someone with mobility issues, and increase the amount of light in dark hallways by adding lamps or battery-powered wall sconces.
Consider heftier home modifications if they are needed.
You and your loved one will benefit from having a home safety tour together and then discussing any adjustments to living spaces that will make life at home more manageable. For example, installing hand rails in the bathroom will make getting in and out of the bathtub safer, while structural changes such as widening doorways, and replacing carpeted floors with hard, smooth flooring surfaces will accommodate individuals who use walkers or wheelchairs.
Stock your fridge full of healthy, nutrient-dense foods.
This is a good habit for any family to practice, and those with PD are no exception. Maintaining a healthy diet and staying active not only makes us feel our best, but can also ward off conditions like osteoporosis that individuals with PD are prone to.Keep your fridge stocked with healthy foods and ready-to-drink filtered water. Your loved one should also consult his doctor about any special dietary and exercise needs, especially if he suffers from any other conditions (such as diabetes) or takes medication.
Get some extra help if you need it.
It’s completely natural – and reasonable – to feel overwhelmed as a caregiver. If that’s the case, it may be worthwhile to hire a part-time or even full-time caregiver. These professionals can provide special support to both you and your loved one, especially if the PD has advanced to a stage that makes everyday tasks difficult. In order to find the right caregiver for you and your family’s unique situation, be sure to ask potential candidates specific questions. For example, “What caregiving training have you had?” and “What drew you to caregiving?”
As the Michael J. Fox Foundation notes, Parkinson’s is a “highly individualistic disease that everyone experiences differently.” There are many long-term benefits to your loved one being in a familiar, residential environment, including the ability to personalize and customize surroundings as the needs of the person receiving care change, a reduction in pre-mature decline, and an extended and improved quality of life. Although no one wants to watch someone they care about deal with any hardships brought on by PD, inviting a loved one to live with you after this diagnosis can be a wonderful way for you both to spend quality time together and lean on one another for support.
About Jim Vogel