As part of my initial search for information about home adaptations for people with Parkinson’s – see my first blog on Researching Home Improvements (1) – I identified people who could help further, including other people with Parkinson’s, my Occupational Therapist and Parkinson’s Local Adviser.
A discussion in the regular meeting of the sQuad Working Age Group in Derby (2) cautioned against doing home adaptations before I really needed them because they would just be reminders of my Parkinson’s without actually being very useful, as yet. Walk-in showers/wet rooms were the main installation people mentioned as useful. I also approached John Gatt, a fellow sQuad member who, with his two sons, runs the Gattzbee kitchen, plumbing and heating business in Derby.(3) His advice was to take the common sense approach and focus on things which were easier and cheaper to put in as part of the initial work on the house, like walk-in shower/wet room or downstairs toilet. Items like handrails could be taken into account now (eg by leaving appropriate space), but installed later when they were really needed.
Clare Johnson, Specialist Parkinson’s Occupational Therapist at SpARC in Derby (4) stressed that it was important to make it as easy as possible to move and navigate round the house, with clear ‘pathways’ from room to room, wide doorways, an uncluttered environment and few distractions and simple or no patterns on carpets and walls. The specific needs of each individual person with Parkinson’s are the starting point. For some people with Parkinson’s steeper stairs are better because they require more distinctive steps, others find that a distinct line at the front edge of each step is helpful.
The onset of freezing and falls is a good time to look at improving the home.(5) Occupational Therapists do home visits to assess the required improvements (usually mainly to bathroom, bedroom and kitchen), and also to point to alternative strategies which in many cases can provide an effective and flexible way out of Parkinson’s difficulties. For people who freeze, for example, wide doorways are helpful but so is a picture on the wall opposite, giving a focus to stepping through the doorway.
I have also come across more sources of information, such as Care and Repair England which aims to improve the housing and living conditions of older and disabled people and has useful Self-Help Guides to download for free.(8)
(4) SpARC is the Specialist Assessment and Rehabilitation Centre of Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, see also http://www.derbyparkinsons.com/Multidisciplinary_PD_Clinic.html
(7) https://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/social_health/adult_care_and_wellbeing/help_to_live_at_home/adapting_your_home/default.asp and https://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/social_health/adult_care_and_wellbeing/help_to_live_at_home/adapting_your_home/dfgs/default.asp
Photo by Feelart, Bathroom: freedigitalphotos.net