Parkinson's disease: equipment to assist with
Parkinson's disease is a progressive degenerative disorder of the brain
affecting the coordination of movement. Symptoms include tremor, stiffness,
slowness of movement and instability, which affect the ability to perform
everyday activities independently.
Occupational therapists and physiotherapists can teach strategies to assist
with movement and tasks, and can demonstrate equipment to help the person
to be more independent. Since everyone’s experience with Parkinson’s is
unique individual need for equipment will vary. Eating and Drinking
If eating or drinking takes time, insulated bowls, plates and mugs will keep food
warm. Plates with a raised edge help prevent food from slipping over the sides, and
non-slip mats stabilise plates and bowls.
Mugs with two handles make grasping easier, and cups with sufficient nose
clearance allow drinking without tipping the head back. If spillage is an issue, there
are cups with a straw or spout. Straws with a one-way valve are available.
Cutlery with built-up handles aid grasp. Use foam handles over existing cutlery, or
purchase new cutlery with varied handle designs. Angled cutlery curves food towards
the mouth, reducing the need to lift the elbow out from the body, and spoons with
deep bowls help keep food on the spoon if hand tremor is an issue. Swivel forks or
spoons maintain a level position as food is transferred to the mouth.
Weighted cutlery and weighted cups increase stability against tremor, however, they
may increase fatigue.
For difficulties with swallowing, chewing, drinking, language, memory, word finding,
speech or voice, it is advisable to have an assessment by a speech pathologist. This
includes assessing the suitability of voice amplifiers which boost the wearer’s vocal
volume. Food Preparation
A range of manual, electric and battery operated jar and can openers are available.
Ring-pull can openers ease the removal of ring pull can lids. Kettle tippers assist with
pouring boiling water without lifting or carrying the kettle, and kitchen trolleys with
handbrakes can be used to transport items if the person is unsteady. Vegetable
peelers and preparation knives with built-up handles or angled blades eliminate strain
on smaller joints. The Red Tulip: On 11 April 2005, the Red Tulip was launched as the Worldwide Symbol of Parkinson's Disease
at the 9th World PD Day Conference in Luxembourg. Source: European Parkinson’s Disease Association.
Accessed 15/12/08 at: http://www.epda.eu.com/worldPDDay/theRedTulip.asp
Page 1 of 4
Use a shower chair/stool and/or install grab rails in the shower alcove. If the shower
is over the bath, a bath board provides a seat. Use a handheld shower hose and a
long-handled bath sponge. Place soap in a bath mitt or bag on a rope to prevent it
from falling to the floor. A towel on a chair or a terry towelling robe assists with drying
after showering. For additional support, replace towel rails with grab rails. Toilet
Fixed and portable aids that raise the height of toilet seats are
available. Handrails or a toilet seat aid with armrests improve safety
and ease of getting on/off the toilet. Bedside commodes eliminate the
need to walk to the toilet during the night, or non-spill urinals and
bedpans can be placed nearby to avoid having to get out of bed. Dressing
Sit in a chair with armrests for support and increased balance. If standing, rest a
hand on a dressing table or lean against furniture or a wall for additional
support. Where possible, dress the most affected side first and undress it last.
Clothes that fasten at the front or have hook-and-loop fastenings (velcro™) are
easier to manage, as is clothing with elastic waistbands or made from stretch
fabric. Front-opening bras or bras that pull over the head or up from the feet
may be easier.
Leather-soled shoes provide less friction than rubber, making it easier to walk.
Shoes should have low heels and good arch support. Use shoelaces that do not
require tying, such as coil laces, and long-handled shoe horns to remove shoes.
Sock/stocking aids are useful if reaching down is difficult. A dressing stick can
be used to put on/remove coats, shirts and trousers.
Button hooks have a large handle to grasp and assist with buttons, while zips
with small rings attached make it easier to grasp the zip. Seating
A chair with a straight back, armrests and firm seat set to the correct height makes
standing easier. Seats can be raised by using blocks under each leg or placing the
chair on a platform. Chairs with height-adjustable legs are also available. Bedroom
To assist with turning over in bed, bend the knees, turn the head in the direction of
travel and reach across with the opposite arm. Other options include a firm mattress,
a board under the mattress, satin nightwear, satin sheets or a sheet with satin from
shoulder to knee and cotton at the ends. For sitting up in bed, use a bed pole, which
goes under the mattress or secures to the side of a metal-based bed. To eliminate
the risk of entrapment, ensure the bed pole is secure, with no gap between the
mattress and the pole. Electric beds have an adjustable backrest, or inflatable
cushions can be used to raise the head of the bed.
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General Household Aids
To reduce the risk of falls, long-handled cleaning equipment can be used while
sitting. Pick-up reachers assist in picking up small light objects from the floor or a
shelf, reducing bending, reaching and the risk of over-balancing. Spring-assisted
scissors are easier to operate, while touch lamps are easier to use than light
switches. Replace door and tap handles with levers, or use temporary aids to provide
more leverage. Reading and Writing
Bookstands can be used when sitting at a table, in a lounge chair or reading in bed.
Manual or automated page turners assist in turning pages, and "talking books" are
available, which read a story aloud.
To "warm up" the hands, try drawing large loops. Pens with larger grips give more
control, and using larger print instead of cursive makes writing more legible. Lined
paper helps to maintain the size and neatness of writing, and securing the paper with
a clipboard will keep it stable. Use a typewriter or computer if handwriting is illegible.
A key guard on a keyboard assists with pressing the correct key. Telephones
Big buttons assist if experiencing hand tremor, and an answering machine eliminates
the need to rush to the phone. Keep a seat by the phone to sit on so that the focus is
on one thing at a time. Speaker phones enable the user to speak and listen without
having to hold the receiver, and some phones include features that amplify the voice. Recreation
To assist with balance and safety, use long-handled gardening tools to reduce the
need to bend down. Garden stools and kneeling pads with armrests make standing
easier, and ratchet pruners require less effort. For lawn or indoor bowls, use a
bowling arm to pick up and bowl, and a bowl and kitty pick-up will reduce bending.
Look for games with larger pieces or lighter parts, and cardholders assist with holding
playing cards. Alarm Systems
Intercom systems and person-to-person alarms assist in contacting others within the
home. Telephone-based emergency call systems call for assistance to an outside
person. Further information can be obtained from the Independent Living Centre or
the information sheet "Telephone-based emergency call systems". Medication Management
A range of medicine organisers are available,
including those with reminder alarms. Watches are
available with alarms to remind when to take
medication and to record medical history. Pill
cutters or tablet crushers make it easier to ensure
the correct dosage.
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Continence Aids and Equipment
Telephone enquiries and appointments can be made with the Registered Nurse at
the Continence Resource Centre (collocated at the Independent Living Centre). For
advice on bowel and bladder problems see your doctor or a continence nurse
adviser, or ring the National Continence Helpline on 1800 330 066. Mobility Aids
Mobility aids such as walking frames, manual and powered wheelchairs and scooters
assist with balance and conserving energy. It is advisable to have an assessment by
a health professional to ascertain whether a mobility aid is appropriate and which
type is most suitable. Falls Prevention and Energy Conservation
For information about falls prevention, contact the Independent Living Centre. For
energy conservation techniques, ask for the information sheet: "Energy
For further information or to make an appointment to view equipment, please contact
the Independent Living Centre. The Independent Living Centre provides free advice
on equipment and techniques to help you with everyday tasks. Independent Living Centre
11 Blacks Road
Gilles Plains SA 5086
1300 885 886 (SA & NT callers only)
for the Blind
or (08) 8266 5260 Sudholz Road Blacks Road Fax:
(08) 8266 5263 X BUS STOP Email:
email@example.com BUS STOP 28Website:
www.disability.sa.gov.au Bus routes:
From the city T500/T501 or North East Road
207/208 to Stop 28 Sudholz Road
Timetable information: (08) 8210 1000
Accessible off-street parking is available. Parkinson's SA Inc
Parkinson's SA Inc provides support services for people with Parkinson's disease
and their families/carers. Contact:
PO Box 466, Unley SA 5061
Phone: 8357 8909
Copies of this publication are available from the Disability Information Service
Tel: 1300 786 117 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.disability.sa.gov.au
Printed Jan 2009