Parkinson’s can affect your mobility as well as memory and thinking skills. For example, you might have tripping episodes or experience “freezing” that can lead to sudden loss of balance and falls. However, it can be hard to recognize changes that are happening to your own mind and body as a result of the disease. While each person experiences Parkinson’s differently, it is important to know that even familiar tasks can become difficult or unsafe.
On this page, we explore ways to create a safer home environment and lower the risk of falls and injury. You also might want to ask your doctor for a Home Safety Evaluation. An occupational therapist will come to your home and provide tips to make your home safer.
Home Safety Tour Checklist
Use this checklist to ensure that your home is safe and easily accessible.
Throughout the House
- Floors are stable, non-skid surfaces without excessive patterns.
- All furniture is secure, sturdy and does not swivel.
- Chairs are stable, have arm rests and adequate seat height to make standing up easier.
- There is good lighting throughout the home, with no dark or shadowy areas, and blinds/shades are adjusted to minimize glare.
- Walking paths are wide, allowing easy access and use of a walker or wheelchair if needed.
- Electrical/phone/computer cords do not pose a tripping/falls risk when walking and moving about.
- Stairs are in good shape, have railings and can be blocked for safety if needed.
- Dining area can be easily accessed.
- Smoke alarms are installed in all rooms (especially bedroom and kitchen), with fully charged batteries.
- Remove through rugs/scatter rugs.
Remove clutter to decrease risk of tripping and falls.
- Environment is quiet and relaxing.
- Bed height allows feet to touch floor when seated at bedside.
- Half side rail or bed pole is in place to help with rolling and getting up.
- Lighting is easily accessible, so you do not need to walk around the room in the dark.
- Lamps are where they can be easily turned on and off.
- A nightlight is on the path and bright enough to fully light the way to the bathroom.
- A flashlight is by your bedside in case of a power outage.
- A bedside commode/urinal is available for nighttime use if needed.
- Clothing rods are at a height that is easy to reach, the closet is well-lit and clothes are in dressers that will allow access without stooping or bending.
- Carpets and rugs are smooth to create a safe walking surface and minimize falls.
- A telephone and clock are by the bedside, so you do not have to get out of bed to find them, especially during the night.
- Place slippery fabric or a draw sheet on the middle third of the bed to make rolling easier.
- Remove the top sheet; instead, use a lightweight comforter.
Avoid flannel sheets and nightwear.
Most falls take place in the bathroom because of difficulty getting on and off the toilet and in and out of the tub; difficulty seeing due to poor lighting; slipping on wet surfaces; tripping on throw rugs; or getting dizzy while standing from the toilet to the sink. Make sure the following safety measures are in place, and check the Bathroom page for more details.
- Grab bars are installed near the toilet, tub and shower: no location should require use of towel racks, faucets or soap dishes as grab bars.
- Toilet has an elevated seat and arm rests or grab bar within easy reach.
- Tub/shower has a sturdy bench with back support for bathing/shower safety.
- Seating is available if needed when performing tasks like brushing teeth, shaving, etc.
- A light switch is near the door to prevent you from walking into a dark area.
Floors are unwaxed and free of debris.
Cooking is often a multi-step process, and a person with Parkinson’s may have difficulty managing kitchen tasks safely. Balance changes can make opening refrigerator and oven doors harder, and falls can occur when trying to reach high shelves or carry objects from counter to table. Try these tips to use your kitchen in a safe, manageable way.
- Cabinet handles are installed (rather than knobs) to make it easier to open and close cupboard doors.
- Commonly used items are in easily accessible drawers to avoid the need to reach or bend over too far to find them.
- Items used for cooking (such as spices, pots and pans) are near the stove to avoid reaching over the stove, which may cause burns.
- The sink has a single handle faucet, which is easier to control and turn on and off.
Use a long-handed reacher for lightweight items on high shelves.
- There is adequate lighting on steps.
- Steps are non-skid surfaces.
- Handrails are installed on at least one side of the steps. Handrails two to three inches from the wall permit good grasp.
- If you cannot use a walker, cane or mobility aid on the steps, make sure you have two: keep one at the bottom of the stairs and one at the top of the stairs.
- When possible, a ramp is installed over the steps if you cannot safely climb steps.
- Keep steps clutter free.
- Put brightly colored tape on the top and bottom steps to signal the beginning and end of the steps.
Use of power tools
Tremor combined with balance and coordination changes can impact safe use of power tools, even if you have used them for a long time. Slowed reaction time can also lead to safety concerns. Consider all these factors when deciding if using power tools is safe for you.
Reductions in balance skills and protective reflexes increase falls risk in people with PD. Avoid trying to climb on ladders, step stools or other apparatus.