For a person with a chronic, debilitating disease, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, many aspects of daily life become affected. However, with careful planning and activity modification, the caregiver can help make these activities become much less stressful and intrusive for the patient.
The following suggestions offer the caregiver and his or her loved one a general approach to overcoming difficulties with daily activities.
Plan periods of rest
Be sure to plan for plenty of rest. The person being cared for may need to plan at least one rest period every day. If he or she has swelling in the feet or ankles, elevate his or her legs when resting or sitting for prolonged periods. Encourage the person you are caring for to avoid working long days and to rest in between recreation and leisure activities.
Using less energy with daily tasks helps leave more energy to do more activities during the day. This may involve cutting down on some activities or using energy-saving devices or techniques. If your loved one complains that daily self care or home care activities are too tiring, contact his or her doctor.
Here are some energy-conserving tips:
- Simplify tasks and set realistic goals. Explain to your loved one that things don’t have to be done the same way he or she has always done them.
- When planning activities (chores, exercise, and recreation), do so ahead of time and space them throughout the day. Do not schedule too many things to do in one day.
- If needed, encourage your loved one to rest before and after activities.
- Do not plan activities right after a meal. There should 20 to 30 minute rest periods after each meal.
- Encourage your loved one to ask for help. If necessary, divide tasks among family and friends.
- Encourage your loved one to get a good night’s sleep and elevate his or her head when sleeping. Remind him or her to be careful not to nap too much during the day. This might affect his or her ability to sleep at night.
- If your loved one’s doctor says it is okay, he or she may climb steps. Try to arrange activities so your loved one does not have to climb up and down stairs many times during the day.
- Encourage your loved one to avoid extreme physical activity such as pushing, pulling, or lifting heavy objects (more than 10 pounds) that require straining.
For specific activities, encourage your loved one to use the following guidelines:
- Get dressed while sitting in a chair that has armrests — this will help maintain balance.
- Roll from side to side to get pants over hips. This can be done while sitting in a chair or lying down on your bed.
- Wear clothes that are loose fitting and have elastic waistbands.
- Choose wrap-around clothing instead of the pullover type. Also choose clothing that opens in the front, not the back so there's no need to reach behind.
- Wear clothing with large, flat buttons, zippers, or Velcro® closures.
- Use a button hook to button clothing.
- If there is shoulder weakness, use a dressing stick to get your coat or shirt on or off.
- Use a zipper pull or attach a leather loop on the end of the zipper to zip pants or jackets.
- Wear slip-on shoes or buy elastic shoelaces that allow shoes to be slipped on and off without untying the laces. Use devices such as a sock donner and long-handled shoehorn for additional assistance.
- Use a shower chair if necessary.
- Use a hand-held hose for showering and bathing.
- Use a long-handled sponge or scrubbing brush.
- Use soap-on-a-rope, bath mitts or sponges with soap inside or a soft soap applicator instead of bar soap.
- Use lukewarm water, as very hot water can cause fatigue.
- Sew straps on towels to make them easier to hold while drying.
- Place a non-skid rug on the floor outside the tub to dry your feet so you don’t slip.
- Put a towel on the back of your chair and rub your back against it to dry. Or, use a terry cloth robe instead of a towel to dry off.
- If needed, use a bedside commode.
- In the bathroom, use an elevated toilet seat and/or safety rails to assist standing from a low surface.
General hygiene and self-care activities
- Do all grooming (shaving, drying hair, etc) while sitting.
- Use hairbrushes and combs with built-up handles or handles with finger loops.
- Use toothbrushes with built-up handles or use an electric toothbrush.
Eating and drinking
- Don’t rush meals. Allow extra time to finish the meal.
- Rest elbows on the table to provide more motion at the wrist and hand.
- Sit with knees and hips bent at a 90-degree angle in a straight-back chair.
- Use utensils with built-up, lightweight handles, or use a "spork" — a spoon and fork in one. Use a rocker knife for cutting food.
- Use a non-skid mat (made out of a material called "Dycem®") to stabilize objects on the table.
- Use a plate guard or plate with a raised lip to prevent food from spilling.
- Use a long straw with a non-spill cup or use a plastic mug with a large handle.
- Use the back burners and keep pot handles turned inward.
Drooling or salivation
- Suck on hard candy, lozenges, or gum to control excess saliva.
- Use a straw when drinking to strengthen the muscles of the lips, mouth, and throat.
- Use large print, instead of script writing. Try using weighted pens or pencils, wrap black electrical tape around the barrel for additional grip.
- Use magic markers and large tablet on an easel.
- If you have a lot of difficulty using writing utensils, try typing notes or letters on a computer or typewriter.
- Use long handles on sponge mops, cleaning brushes, dust pans, brooms, or window washers.
- Sit to fold laundry, wash dishes, iron clothes, use the sweeper, mop the floor, or to plug in appliances at low outlets. Adapt counters so that they can be reached from a wheelchair or from a sitting position.
Standing and sitting
- Bend slowly at the waist and touch toes before trying to rise from a seated position.
- Once standing, remain in place for a few seconds before trying to walk -- this will help regain balance.
- Place an additional cushion or book to add height to your chairs and add firmness, this will help to decrease the distance when sitting or standing.
- To make it easier to get out of bed, tie a sheet to the bed post and knot the other end so the sheet can be grasped to rise to a sitting position.
Cramps, spasms, and tremors
- Massage (or have someone else massage) your legs nightly to relieve leg cramps.
- Warm baths and heating pads help to relieve muscle spasms and ease cramps.
- Mineral ice can be used to relax sore joints and muscles.
- Squeeze a small rubber ball to reduce hand tremors.
- At first indication of a tremor, if possible, try lying on the floor, face down, and relax your body for 5 to 10 minutes.
Other helpful hints
- Purchase a small battery-powered alarm pill box to help you remember your medication schedule.
- Use a speaker phone or telephone headset to ease the problem of hand tremors while talking on the phone.
- Install an intercom system or purchase walkie-talkies to make contact within the home easier.
- Consider an Emergency Alert System.