Everything You Need to Know About Parkinson’s Disease

More than 50,000 new cases of Parkinson’s Disease are diagnosed in the United States each year. The disease – a disorder of the nervous system – is chronic and worsens over time. 

Often, the first sign of a problem is a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. And while this is the most well-known symptom, it is certainly not the only one. Patients also suffer from a lack of facial expression, slurred speech, stiffness, and slow movement. 

Although Parkinson’s can’t be cured, some options can offer a marked improvement in symptoms. Keep reading to learn more about this daunting disease, plus medical treatments and home modifications that can help ease discomfort. 

Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

People affected by Parkinson’s Disease experience lower levels of dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain. This leads to abnormal brain activity and ultimately causes most signs and symptoms associated with the illness. 

Warning signs of Parkinson’s vary from person to person, and early symptoms are often so mild they go unnoticed. Typically, problems start on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after the whole body is affected. 

Here’s what to look for: 

  • Tremors or shaking, usually in your hand or fingers
  • Stiff muscles that occur throughout the body
  • Slowed movement, including shorter steps or dragging your feet
  • Decreased ability to smell
  • Small, cramped handwriting
  • Voice changes, such as a slur or speaking in a monotone
  • Stooped posture and difficulty balancing
  • Body freezes up while walking

 Causes of Parkinson’s Disease

It is not known what causes Parkinson’s. Scientists believe that it may have both genetic and environmental components or that viruses may trigger it. 

Known risk factors include: 

  • Age: Parkinson’s usually begins in middle or late life, and the risk increases with age
  • Sex: Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s than women
  • Heredity: Having a close relative with Parkinson’s increases the chances that you’ll develop the disease, although the risk is still small
  • Exposure to toxins: Ongoing exposure to certain pesticides or herbicides may increase your risk of developing Parkinson’s 

Complications of Parkinson’s Disease

Problems arising from Parkinson’s can significantly reduce quality of life. For example, individuals with Parkinson’s may experience dangerous falls, leading to contusions, blood clots, and broken bones. 

Other problems may include: 

  • Sleep problems and sleep disorders
  • Cognitive issues and thinking difficulties
  • Swallowing problems
  • Lack of bladder control
  • Depression, anxiety, and other emotional changes

Proper treatment and safety measures taken at home can help overcome obstacles and increase life expectancy. 

Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease

Treatment for Parkinson’s typically includes a combination of medications, therapies, and lifestyle changes. 

Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy are often recommended, and most individuals find medication helpful.

A number of drugs can be used to treat Parkinson’s, including:

  • Levodopa: A medication that helps replenish dopamine
  • Dopamine agonists: Drugs that can imitate the action of dopamine in the brain
  • Anticholinergics: Used to help with rigidity
  • COMT inhibitors: Can help prolong the effect of levodopa
  • MAO B inhibitors: Inhibit the enzyme monoamine oxidase B, which breaks down dopamine in the brain

Over time, the effectiveness of Parkinson’s medications usually decreases. By the later stages of the disease, side effects may outweigh the benefits.

Helpful home modifications

People with Parkinson’s often worry that they won’t be able to stay in their own homes, for a variety of reasons. For instance, Parkinson’s can cause rigidity, problems initiating movements, and difficulty walking. These deficits can impair the ability to go from sitting to standing and to move freely between rooms, among other things.

Although it can be complex, home modifications and special equipment can help you stay in place as the disease progresses.

Some of the most common modifications for Parkinson’s patients include:

Bathroom safety

  • Installing grab bars near the toilet and in the tub/shower to help avoid slips and falls
  • Installing a tub transfer bench to ease the transition into the bath or shower
  • Put in a raised toilet seat to help with standing from the commode
  • Creating a no threshold/barrier-free shower to allow for the use of a rolling shower chair

Bedroom safety

  • Using an adjustable bed or hospital bed to assist with transferring in and out of bed
  • Adding a handrail to help move into a standing position
  • Installing motion-activated lights to help avoid nighttime slips, falls, or other accidents

Help with mobility

  • Removing threshold strips between rooms to mitigate tripping hazards
  • Using a lift recliner to help move from a sitting to a standing position
  • Widening doorways to allow for a wheelchair, if necessary
  • Installing ramps or stairlifts to assist with the challenge of climbing stairs

Final thoughts

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive illness that continuously worsens. Proper medical treatment, along with modifications to your house, can help keep you safe and enable you to remain in your home longer.

Reach out today to speak with our team about any home safety concerns you may have or issues in navigating your daily life: (973) 219 – 4147.

Let Us Customize a Solution

Every home is unique and so is every person utilizing a ramp.  The goal of Back Home Safely is to create accessible environments that allow you to stay in your home.  We carry ramps in many sizes to accommodate your home.  We will evaluate your specific needs, and make a recommendation to create the accessible environment you need, affording you the ability to move freely and safely inside and outside your home.

When considering a ramp several questions need to be addressed:

  1. Is a permanent or temporary ramp needed? 
  2. Will permits be required?
  3. What size ramp is needed?
  4. What are the weather conditions the ramp will be exposed to? 
  5. What material should the be ramp be made of?
  6. How much maintenance will the ramp require?
  7. What is the budget for the ramp?

Ramps can be Permanent or Modular or Portable

Permanent ramps are ramps constructed out of wood or concrete.  These have footings and require permits which can take a town up to 20 days to allow the work to be completed.  Many times, people who require a ramp do not have this time to wait for the permitting process. 

Modular ramp systems are made of aluminum or steel.  A modular ramp is composed of different ramp and platform sections of varying sizes, which gives the ramp dealer the ability to create a ramp layout that works around your property’s landscape.  They have feet and do not require footings, as such typically do not require a permit.  Many of these ramps have curb edging to prevent the wheelchair or walker from coming off the ramp and they may also have handrails.

Portable ramps are small ramps usually without handrails that are typically used for one or two steps or a curb and can be placed down when needed and then removed (Insert a picture of a suitcase ramp)

Are Permits Required for Ramps?

Permits are required for any permanent ramp that has footings.  Each town has permitting requirements that would have to be investigated before the installation of a permanent structure.  Most towns will not require permits for temporary ramps because they are just that, temporary.  Portable ramps require no permits and can be used inside or outside the home.

What Size Ramp do I Need?

The optimal length of a ramp is 12″ (or 1 foot) of ramp for every inch of rise.  Every step is typically 7 1/2 – 8″.  Therefore, a ramp for 3 steps would require 24’ of ramp.  If the journey to your exterior requires a turn, a platform would be added to allow for the turn. For ramps of more than 30′ long, there should be an extra platform that is used for resting.  In addition, ramps can be dangerous if the appropriate length-to-rise ratio is not appropriate. Ramps that are too steep can create a fall hazard.

What Weather Conditions will the Ramp be Exposed to?

Expert considerations for environmental as well as specific functional needs must be carefully addressed to achieve the safety and usability of the ramp.  Assessing the weather conditions including directional exposure for ice buildup and puddling will be considered when installing the ramp.

What Material Should the Ramp be Made of?

Permanent ramps can be made of bluestone, pavers, and concrete.  They can be tastefully blended into your home environment with the goal of creating accessibility while maintaining the beauty of your home.

Modular ramps are usually made of weatherproof, slip-resistant aluminum that can range from 2’ to 200’ long depending on your individual needs.  They come standard with 36″ high handrails and are able to support the weight of family members, caregivers, and wheelchairs.

Threshold and portable ramps, which can be our solution for high door thresholds or individual steps, are made of lightweight, slip-resistant materials.  This ensures shuffle steppers

How much Maintenance will the Ramp Require?

As with any front walk, you need to keep the ramp clear of debris, be aware of changing or slippery conditions, and be prepared for winter weather.  Once your ramp is installed, be sure to keep ice melt on hand.  For aluminum ramps, a product with magnesium or calcium chloride is best as it is safe to use on aluminum surfaces. Do not use salt deicer. In addition, a ramp should be cleared with a plastic shovel and snow broom; this will minimize any abrasion to the ribbed and grip surface of the ramp.

As with any installation, there could be some loosening of the bolts and screws over time or some settling of the legs due to soil conditions.  If you notice any of this, call Back Home Safely and we will have a technician make the necessary adjustments.

How much will a Ramp Cost?

Back Home Safely, in New Jersey, gives free estimates for ramp systems.  We keep a large quantity of ramp material in our warehouse to allow for quick installations.  Rough Estimates can sometimes be given by a ramp installer by simply looking at a picture of the home.  Best estimates, however, are when the dealer makes a visit to the home.

Temporary ramps can be rented or purchased.  Rental options are beneficial if the medical condition is a temporary situation such as an orthopedic injury that will heal or in a case where an individual will be temporarily residing with a loved one while recuperating.

Ramps may be covered by the following:

  • Long Term Care Insurance
  • Veterans Administration
  • Medicaid
  • Auto Insurance for auto cases
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance for Work Injuries

    July 21, 2021