A person with Parkinson’s disease (PD) may experience visual, cognitive and mobility challenges as symptoms progress or as side effects from certain medications. Compromised vision can make it difficult to distinguish objects, perceive depth and safely maneuver a space while cognitive changes may make previously automated tasks (such as walking) more cumbersome.
Visual cues, however, can help a person with PD stay on track. See how members of our PD community have embraced color to train their brains:
Comfort in the Home
Our surroundings are important to us and contribute to our overall mood. Soft, warm colors are calming. Incorporate tranquil shades of orange, brown, red, yellow, orange and yellow-green to make large spaces feel cozier.
Flooring Around the Home
A solid-color carpet is best. Solid colors emphasize boundaries between the wall and the floor and any changes in surface level. Large patterns or multiple colors can be distracting and make it more difficult to maneuver across a space. Be particularly cautious and try to avoid using patterned carpets and rugs on steps and stairways.
Apply brightly colored tape on the top and bottom steps to signal the beginning and end of the steps.
Doorways and Hallways
Placing colored tape lines in a doorway can make it easier for people with Parkinson’s who have difficulty moving and experiencing freezing episodes. The tape provides a visual cue for where to place each foot when moving through the door. Taped lines can be placed down a hallway or in other places where freezing often occurs.
Consider color contrast when installing grab bars and other safety items. For example, put a dark grab bar on a white wall. Also consider adequate lighting with few darkened or shadowy spaces.
Changes in the brain can make it difficult for a person with Parkinson’s to determine proper body alignment when moving to sit down in a chair. This can result in the person attempting to sit down before his or her body is close enough or in proper position to sit safely. Marking the floor with a taped “x” provides the proper cue for where a person’s foot needs to be before sitting.
Choices allow a person to maintain their self-esteem and dignity.
Allow the person with Parkinson’s to provide as much help as he or she can with dressing. Even if physical or thinking changes prevent a person from accomplishing this on their own, it is important to offer choices. For example, asking whether they would prefer a red shirt or blue shirt can encourage participation.
Keep things simple to avoid confusion. Limiting options can help streamline an activity.
Remotes that only offer the “off”, “on”, “volume” and “channel” options can restore self-sufficiency when watching TV. Consider covering remote control buttons with tape to help minimize visual distractions and streamline productivity.
Use a mobile laser device that creates a colored line for you to step over. To combat freezing of gait, there are canes and walkers available that project a laser line to help cue steps.
Eating and Food
Due to vision changes, contrast sensitivity in the eye makes it hard to discern objects that are similar in color.
People with Parkinson’s may have difficulty if the color of the food is the same color as the dish. Consider using dark dishes when serving light colored foods and light dishes when serving dark foods.
You can also use contrasting placemats under the person’s dish to outline the edges of his or her bowl or plate.
Incorporate foods high in antioxidants (which are important for overall brain health) into your diet. Eat brightly colored and dark fruits and vegetables. Cranberries, strawberries, oranges, beets, cherries, broccoli, blueberries and red kidney beans all deliver high concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.