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Monday, 02 October 2017 00:00

Caring for someone with Parkinson’s & how to simplify daily living

One of the inevitabilities of a disease such as Parkinson’s is that it is a progressive disease - where daily difficulties steadily become more challenging over time. The greatest challenge of all, is learning to adapt to these changes.

The areas of one’s life when suffering from Parkinson’s which will need to be adapted include health and physical capabilities as well as daily living processes and tasks. Where day-to-day tasks may have once been simple, they can begin to become a challenge. The success in high quality care giving lies in making these life adaptions as comfortable as possible for those with Parkinson’s.

Adaptions to the home

Common living areas pose the greatest risk for those with middle to late-stage Parkinson’s. Rooms such as kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms as well as hallways will need to be adapted in order to facilitate physical challenges that may come with the progression of this disease.

Physical aids such as canes, walkers and wheelchairs will need to be accommodated for, while a number of obstacles may need to be removed, including:

  • Floor rugs to avoid trips and falls
  • Lamps – they should be carefully placed to avoid being easily tipped over, while cords should be tucked away to avoid a tripping hazard
  • Furniture: items need to be placed far enough apart to allow for walkers and wheelchairs
  • Home décor: side tables and standing vases pose a great risk for navigation and should be placed out of the way of main walkways

Simplifying daily activities

Throughout the advances of Parkinson’s, simple, everyday tasks will begin to become increasingly difficult and may lead to frustration and anger. During this time it’s important to remain patient as a care giver and try and simplify these daily activities as best as possible. Some examples of daily tasks which may require adaption include:

  • Bathing: taking a bath may become increasingly difficult with mobility issues and the onset of dementia which usually happens with Parkinson’s. Showers may become the new norm.
  • Dressing: this process may take longer as motor skills and strength decreases with Parkinson’s. Where possible, replace buttons with zips or Velcro to simplify the process and patience is key!
  • Mobility: stiffness and rigidity is commonly experienced as Parkinson’s progresses. It’s important to encourage a patient or loved one to stay mobile as much as possible by squeezing a stress ball for hands and fingers or keep moving joints to encourage better blood flow. Heating pads, mineral ice and regular massages will help with spasms, tremors and cramps.
  • Eating: The more advanced stages of Parkinson’s may present difficulties with eating. The use of specially designed eating utensils with built-up handles may help the process, while as a caregiver you may need to assist in the feeding process. It’s important to not rush this process and allow enough time to finish their meal. In some cases, it may be necessary to puree or finely chop up foods to help with the eating process.

As a care giver, it is largely in your hands to determine the quality of life a loved one or patient. To be prepared and educated on the challenges and consequent adaptions which may lie ahead means you are one step closer to offering a better quality of life!

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