“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...”
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 be added to the floor but there is another solution that my clients have really liked, and it maintains the beauty of the shower. It is Formula 511. It is an anti-slip formula that is applied easily to the tile. See Link for more information.
Sometimes the solution comes from analyzing the “occupation”, in this case the activity of washing your body. I had a client report he was starting to feel unsafe when showering. I was familiar with the adaptations to the shower this client had made and did not feel the problem was there. I made sure the client had not had any significant medical changes. I then asked about the showering activity. I know from years of helping patients in the shower that not all soaps are the same, especially some body washes. Some of soaps leave a film so slippery I was scared the patient would slip right out of my hands. So, I asked if the client had changed soaps and he had changed to a body wash. I asked him to try returning to a bar soap and it worked, he no longer felt scared of slipping in the shower!
It's so nice when the solutions are simple, and often they are! If you continually struggle doing something in your home (getting up from the furniture, the toilet, or in and out of the car, getting dressed, doing laundry, simple meal prep or lawn work) I would love to partner with you to find a solution. Go to my website at My LiveABILITY, LLC to learn more.
Putting up Grab bars
If there is one thing, I don’t think you can have too many of it is grab bars! I highly recommend them by the toilet and the shower. They should be placed according to your unique reaching patterns, and not just according to standard ADA recommendations which are based on the needs of soldiers returning from WWII. Again, I am happy to help you identify the best place for grab bars so don’t hesitate to contact me through my website. Thankfully Medicare does pay for my services. However, I do not install grab bars, but I recently learned of an organization that will install them. They will also help with other things like home repairs AND decluttering. Westminster Home Connection is a non-profit ministry devoted to helping people make their homes livable as they age. Check out their website linked here for more information on all they do.
Simple home hacks can make a big difference! Do you have a hack you have used that has made a huge difference in your home? Please share it with me. Email me at email@example.com.
If you want to chat about your struggle, I offer a free 30-minute consultation via Zoom or phone. To arrange a consultation, please reach out through my website.
Next week I can’t wait to share some pointers on helping you not be a slave to your bladder!
Have a great week!