top of page

Home Hacks: Easy fixes to make your home more livable

“I have a terrible time trying to get off my couch!” “I just don’t feel safe in my shower!” “I don’t have anyone to put in grab bars for me...”

Hello again!

It’s Carlene (Dr. J) and I am back this week to bring up another topic I see a lot in my private practice. Folks want to know how they can live in their homes with less struggle. They wonder how they can feel safer.

Parkinson’s Disease is so variable: You may be moving great but as the medicine wears off, all of a sudden it’s really hard to get out of a chair, or you are feeling a little anxious about some upcoming event and your symptoms have intensified. Even having a bout of constipation (more on that next week) can affect how you are able to move and feel safe when taking a shower.

This is why I LOVE being an occupational therapist (OT). I get to help you identify where the problems are and find solutions! When you come to me with a difficult situation, I am uniquely trained to analyze the problem from three different perspectives. With my education in both physical and mental health, I can identify the physical or mental factors that may be contributing to the problem. See my blog from last week for more details on retraining the brain. I also dissect the activity you want to do and identify ways to make it easier for you. Finally, I assess your environment (in this case, your home) and see if there are changes that can be made so it works better for you.

After over 30 years of doing this, I have found the client often has the best solutions, they just need someone to ask the right questions or direct them. I have also learned that some situations that have created so much struggle for someone can have simple solution.

Today I want to share a few situations that ended up having simple solutions! Maybe they will help you!

Getting off the couch!

I know there are more than a few of you who struggle with this. If you struggle every day to get off the couch, I have some ideas for you!

First, I always want my clients to try retraining their brain to see if they can learn how to move better using new techniques. This is where LSVT BIG comes in. I described it last week and information is linked here. If you have not been through this program, I will probably recommend we start there.

After we have tried that, then I look at adaptations we can make to the couch. A lot of couches are designed to fit us like a glove, but it is a bit like trying to get out of a baseball glove to get off them. Getting up from couches are not easy for a lot of people. When I worked in rehabilitation and my patients needed quick solutions, I would recommend putting landscaping bricks under the legs. I find, for most people, if they can raise the seat height from the standard 18” to about 22” they can reliably get off their couch regardless of how their symptoms may be acting up. However, landscaping bricks are not that attractive,but, in collaboration with a client, we found replacement furniture legs. For one client we replaced the 4” legs with 8” legs and it made a huge difference and the couch looked better! Here is a link on Amazon for this option. I also recommend adding an extra cushion to sit on or putting a piece of plywood under the cushions to keep them from sinking so much. If you are ordering a new couch, ask for the cushions to be overstuffed. This will make them firmer and much easier to for you to get up.

I feel unsafe in my shower!

I have heard this concern from many clients. There are multiple things I consider when helping a client navigate this concern. I start with observing how the client is moving, and look at any other factors that may be affecting their balance such as vestibular issues, vision, low blood pressure etc. I also look at the shower. Many of us have remodeled with beautiful tile and marble showers. They are lovely but if not done correctly (with small tiles on the floor) they are a slipping hazard. There are non-skid strips that can