Living with Parkinson's Disease

Coping with Parkinson's

Because of the nature of the disease some people with Parkinson’s may find they have trouble with co-ordination, balance and walking.

Simple things like putting on a pair of shoes, walking upstairs or getting in and out of bed can become mammoth tasks. Some people find themselves housebound because they have no means of getting out and about.

When someone is diagnosed with Parkinson’s a network of support should kick in. Not only should this support cover the medical side of things but also ways of making life easier in the home. This level of support varies enormously from country to country and even from one area of a country to the next. Sadly many Parkinson’s sufferers are left with little or no assistance when it comes to daily living aids. But with a little imagination, some small adjustments around the home and the purchase of inexpensive but handy gadgets simple tasks can become a great deal easier.

Slip on shoes, elasticized trousers and skirts and Velcro fastening can all help to ease the burden if symptoms such as rigidity or tremors make dressing difficult.

A huge range of gadgets and daily living aids are available - from wide handled cutlery and grab rails in the bedroom and bathroom to anti-slip surfaces, raised toilet seats, flat handle flushes and stair lifts.

A few simple adjustments around the house can make a big difference but sometimes the most obvious things get overlooked. High back chairs with arm rests make it easier to get up and sit down. And it’s important to have plenty of space to move about in so place furniture well apart and keep extension cords and clutter out of the way to avoid banging into things and tripping up.

If speech is a problem, an Edu-Com Scanning Device is a handy tool which points to words and pictures to enable a person to communicate. And if the symptoms of the disease make hand writing difficult a personal computer is useful for a variety of tasks including letter writing and organizing finances.

The majority of people living with Parkinson’s disease may never need a wheelchair or a scooter but they can still be useful for getting out and about. Likewise walking sticks or a walking tripod on wheels can aid balance and provide support.

In an ideal world physiotherapy and occupational departments and social services should have a vast amount of these aids at their disposable. But they don’t. In many countries these departments are often overstretched financially and in some cases do not have the level and sophistication of equipment needed. And even if they’re well equipped there’s often a long waiting list.

Obviously any person with Parkinson’s wants the best possible range of aids and equipment to make life easier. Unfortunately, if you haven’t got pots of money or first class medical insurance then, in many countries, it falls mainly on charities to provide the kind of daily living aids described here.

Some charities offer means tested grants to enable patients to buy a state-of-the-art piece of equipment and many donate or loan practical aids such as wheelchairs and bath hoists. Items such as pavement buggies and scooters are sometimes available on loan buy usually need to be bought privately Charities such as the Parkinson’s Disease Society (http://www.parkinsons.org.uk), the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/) (which consists of national societies in virtually every country) and the UK’s Disabled Living Foundation (http://www.dlf.org.uk) offer a wealth of advice, support and practical help.

In America, where private health insurance reigns supreme, daily living aids are covered to a certain extent but exactly which aids are made available depends on the type of policy. Here again many people have to rely on charities and voluntary organizations to provide equipment.

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