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Any time a loved one receives a new diagnosis, it’s natural to wonder about how that diagnosis is likely to affect their quality of life and ability to live independently. That’s especially true when someone you love has Parkinson’s disease. Because Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder, it can affect both physical and mental functioning, creating concerns about a senior’s safety at home.
Some people with Parkinson’s disease also develop dementia, or a loss of thinking and reasoning skills that can make it difficult to perform certain activities. If your loved one develops dementia, you may need to make additional home modifications or create new routines. When you’re ready for these changes, it’s much easier to adapt. Adaptation reduces stress and improves your loved one’s quality of life, in turn.
This guide provides an overview of the most important home safety considerations for seniors with Parkinson’s disease. It also explains what to look for in a senior living community if your loved one has Parkinson’s disease and needs more assistance than you can provide at home.
Room-by-Room Home Modifications for Seniors With Parkinson's Disease
Before making home modifications, it’s important to conduct a thorough assessment to determine what hazards exist and what can be done to correct them. The checklist below is designed to help you identify potential safety issues in each room. Print out a copy and keep it with you as you walk through the home. Click on the checklist below to download.
Home Safety Considerations for Seniors With Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s disease has a major impact on a person’s balance and coordination, increasing the risk of falls. In fact, between 45% and 68% of people with Parkinson’s disease sustain falls each year; these falls may lead to broken bones, head injuries and other serious consequences. Poor balance also makes it difficult to walk through cluttered living spaces without tripping or bumping into things. For some people with Parkinson’s disease, shaking and other uncontrollable movements make it difficult to prepare meals, increasing the risk of burns or knife-related injuries.
With modifications, it’s possible to minimize some of these hazards, making the home much safer. Here are some of the most important safety considerations for seniors with Parkinson’s disease.
In some people, Parkinson’s disease causes blurry vision, double vision and other vision problems. You may not be able to take away these symptoms, but you can complete lighting modifications to make it a little easier for your loved one to see. In rooms with dim overhead lighting, use table lamps or floor lamps to make things brighter. Consider adding LED lights inside kitchen cabinets or above countertops to make it easier to see while preparing meals or putting away dishes.
For seniors who use walkers or wheelchairs, it can also be helpful to add light-switch extenders in each room of the home. These extenders make it possible to access existing light switches without having to reach or stand up from a seated position, which may reduce the risk of falls. If necessary, add longer cords or chains to overhead lights that aren’t on a switch.
Parkinsonian gait is a common symptom of Parkinson’s disease. People with this symptom may shuffle their feet when they walk or freeze before taking a step. Your loved one may also maintain a stooped position as they walk, making it even more difficult to navigate through each room. One way to reduce the risk of falls is to replace thick carpeting with thin carpet or hard flooring. Deep-pile carpet isn’t recommended because people who shuffle don’t pick up their feet when they walk, increasing the risk of tripping over the thick surface. Additionally, walkers and wheelchairs are more difficult to maneuver and use on deep-pile carpeting.
Depending on how the disorder progresses, you may want to replace some of your loved one’s furniture to make it easier for them to get up and down without falling. For example, you may want to add a lift chair recliner to the living room. This type of chair is commonly used for sleeping as the disease progresses, because of the added comfort and positioning it can provide. It has an internal motor to lift it up and down, making it easier for an older person with Parkinson’s disease or another neurological disorder to get in and out of the chair.
It’s also important to remove tripping hazards from your loved one’s home, which can cause a loss of balance. Take a look around your loved one’s living space to see if any of the following tripping hazards are present:
- Electrical cords stretched across walkways
- Loose carpeting
- Area rugs
- Broken or loose tiles
- Clutter in walkways
- Furniture sticking out into walkways
- Too much furniture in a room
What To Look For in a Senior Living Community for a Loved One With Parkinson’s
If you and your loved one decide that their needs would be better served in a senior living community, it’s important to choose one that offers specialized care for residents with Parkinson’s disease. Here’s what to look for:
- Specialists Available: If a community doesn’t have access to a neurologist for consultations, it should at least make it easy for residents to acquire expert neurology care when needed. It’s also helpful if the community offers convenient access to an imaging center or hospital in case a resident’s symptoms get worse.
- 24-Hour Supervision: Your loved one may not need someone in their living quarters at all times, but it’s important to have a trained staff member available 24 hours per day. Staff members may provide help with activities of daily living, physical or occupational therapy, arrange for off-site medical care or perform other functions to keep your loved one safe.
- Experienced Caregivers: The best programs have experienced staff members available to supervise residents and manage their care. Some senior living communities provide Parkinson’s-specific training to help employees better assist residents with this diagnosis and quickly recognize the signs of disease progression.
- Medication Management: Medication management is especially important for seniors with Parkinson’s disease, as delays have been shown to result in “an immediate increase in symptoms.” Late administration of medications can cause confusion, loss of balance, worsening tremors and difficulty communicating. Senior living communities that prioritize on-time medication administration are safer for residents with Parkinson’s than those that have frequent medication delays.
Personalized Care Plans: No two people with Parkinson’s disease are exactly the same. Symptoms vary in frequency and severity, making personalized care essential for slowing disease progression. Individualized care may also make it easier for staff members to notice when a resident’s symptoms are getting worse.
Senior Living Facilities That Offer Parkinson's Management and Care
Assisted living communities have staff members available 24 hours per day and offer a wide range of services and amenities to promote health and independence, making them a good fit for many people with Parkinson’s disease. Some communities even offer specialized Parkinson’s care programs, giving residents the extra support they need to manage their symptoms and preserve as much neurological function as possible.
The table below provides examples of assisted living communities that offer programs specifically for seniors with Parkinson’s disease.
|Agape Villa Care Home
|Roseville, CA||Agape Villa Care Home offers a full-service care program for seniors with Parkinson’s disease. Residents enjoy a home-like atmosphere and have access to regular social events, which can help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s-related depression. Staff members also provide assistance with eating, bathing and other activities of daily living.|
|Fairview Rehab & Nursing Home||Queens, NY||At Fairview Rehab & Nursing Home, staff members aim to keep residents with Parkinson’s disease as active and healthy as possible. Each resident receives a personalized care plan to cope with the disease. The community also offers physical occupational and speech therapy along with dietary advice to reduce Parkinson’s symptoms.|
|Goddard House||Brookline, MA||Goddard House offers the Parkinson’s in Motion initiative, which takes a holistic approach to managing Parkinson’s disease. Staff members receive ongoing training on Parkinson’s and its effects, ensuring they understand how to provide high-quality care. Goddard also offers a variety of movement and expressive therapies for residents with Parkinson’s disease.|
|Parkinson’s Specialty Care Residential Living – East Bloomington||Bloomington, MN||Parkinson’s Specialty Care Residential Living – East Bloomington provides expert care for residents with Parkinson’s disease. Nurses receive training specific to Parkinson’s and movement disorders, enabling them to help residents manage their symptoms. The community has a home-like environment and offers many opportunities for residents to socialize.|
|Parkinson’s Specialty Care Residential Living – Edina East & West||Edina, MN||Parkinson’s Specialty Care Residential Living – Edina East & West accommodates six residents, ensuring that each person receives personalized attention. The assisted living home has large common areas to make it easy for family members to visit as often as possible. Residents also enjoy watching birds and other wildlife from the patio.|
|Parkinson’s Specialty Care Residential Living – Golden Valley||Golden Valley, MN||Parkinson’s Specialty Care Residential Living – Golden Valley offers a relaxed environment where residents with Parkinson’s disease can form lasting friendships. Staff members receive ongoing training in movement disorders, improving quality care for all residents. The home also has a deck and screened-in porch to encourage residents to socialize.|
|Parkinson’s Specialty Care Residential Living – Maplewood||Maplewood, MN||Parkinson’s Specialty Care Residential Living – Maplewood provides a quiet environment where residents can relax and enjoy life. The community’s model of care emphasizes on-time medication administration to make it easier for residents to manage their symptoms. Residents also have access to assistive devices designed for seniors with Parkinson’s disease.|
|Parkinson’s Specialty Care Residential Living – West Bloomington||Bloomington, MN||Parkinson’s Specialty Care Residential Living – West Bloomington accommodates six residents. The community features a pond, bird feeders and planter gardens, giving residents opportunities to socialize and spend quality time outdoors. Staff members receive specialized training in the care of people with Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders.|
|Redstone Village||Huntsville, AL||Redstone Village offers Rock Steady Boxing classes, which use a boxing-based fitness curriculum to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve their gait, posture, flexibility and range of motion. Staff members also provide assistance with activities of daily living as needed.|
|Saint Simeon’s Senior Community||Tulsa, OK||Saint Simeon’s Senior Community has state-of-the-art equipment to help residents with Parkinson’s disease retain as much function as possible. The community’s Parkinson’s care program has been endorsed by the Parkinson Foundation of Oklahoma, giving residents and their loved ones extra peace of mind.|
|Senior Care Homes – Nantucket House||Overland Park, KS||Nantucket House has a licensed caregiver on the premises 24/7. Resident rooms and common areas have features that make the community safer for people with Parkinson’s disease, including grab bars, accessible showers and hard flooring to reduce the risk of falls. Residents also have access to activities designed to help preserve memory.|
|The Heritage of Overland Park||Overland Park, KS||The Heritage of Overland Park provides a wide range of support services for residents with Parkinson’s disease. These include medication management, memory care, assistance with ambulation and a personal escort to meals and other activities. The Heritage also provides opportunities for physical and occupational therapy.|
|Ultimate Personal Care Homes||Houston, TX||Ultimate Personal Care Homes takes a person-centered approach to caring for residents with Parkinson’s disease. In addition to memory care, the community offers reminiscence therapy and other activities designed to preserve cognitive function and improve each resident’s quality of life.|
|Youville House Assisted Living||Cambridge, MA||Youville House offers the STEP program for residents with Parkinson’s disease. STEP stands for support, training, education and physical movement. Participants have access to a Parkinson’s disease support group, a singing program to improve respiratory and motor function, a dedicated classroom and an on-site dance program.|
For assistance choosing a community that offers specialized care for residents with Parkinson’s disease, contact a family advisor at (888) 307-1103.
Resources for Caregivers of Seniors With Parkinson's Disease
If your loved one was just diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms and find out how to provide the best possible care. The table below includes resources to help you learn more about Parkinson’s and understand how to keep your loved one as healthy as possible as they live with the disorder.
|Resource||Contact Information||How It Can Help|
|Parkinson’s Foundation||(800) 473-4636||The Parkinson’s Foundation offers educational resources to help caregivers learn more about the disease and find out how to provide physical and emotional support to their loved ones. It also raises money to fund research into treatments for Parkinson’s disease.|
|The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research||(212) 509-0995||The Michael J. Fox Foundation offers a variety of resources for people living with Parkinson’s Disease and their caregivers. One helpful tool is “Navigating Parkinson’s: Your Guide to the Early Years,” a downloadable guide that includes tips for navigating medical appointments as someone with a recent Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.|
|American Parkinson Disease Association||(800) 223-2732||APDA has a nationwide network of resources to help people with Parkinson’s disease improve their quality of life. The organization also offers resources specifically for caregivers, including “Becoming a Care Partner,” a PDF guide to caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease.|
|Lotsa Helping Hands||[email protected]||Lotsa Helping Hands makes it easier for caregivers to establish support networks in their neighborhoods. The care calendar is especially helpful, as it allows family members and friends to sign up to provide transportation to medical appointments or respite care when needed.|
|National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke||(800) 352-9424||NINDS has a library of patient and caregiver resources, making it easier to understand how the nervous system works and what to expect when undergoing neurological tests and procedures.|
|Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s||(866) 358-0285||The Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s maintains a list of recommended tools to improve functioning and provide better care to adults with Parkinson’s disease. The organization also funds research into using diet, exercise and other interventions to improve quality of life and prevent disease progression.|
|CurePSP||(800) 457-4777||CurePSP maintains a library of educational resources and has support groups throughout the United States. The organization also operates the Centers of Care program, which has 27 U.S. locations providing specialized care for people with Parkinson’s disease.|
|Parkinson’s Resource Organization||(877) 775-4111||PRO works to ensure that people with Parkinson’s disease have the support they need to avoid isolation. Its website has a checklist of steps to follow after a new diagnosis. PRO also offers virtual meetings for people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers.|