ParkinsonsAre you or someone you love living with Parkinson's disease?

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system.

The brain produces dopamine, which helps control smooth muscle movement, but in people with Parkinson's, the cells that produce dopamine break down. The shortage of dopamine contributes to tremors, muscle rigidity and balance problems, which can make everyday tasks such as eating, bathing and dressing more difficult.

Parkinson's symptoms can be managed effectively with medication for several years, and there are a variety of aids available that make daily living easier.

Mobility aids
Independence tip: When dressing, sit in a chair that has armrests to help you maintain your balance.

An adjustable, single-base cane with a comfortable hand grip will make it easier to rise from a seated position and navigate around home or work.

Walkers offer additional stability for those who need it. Choose a model with swivel wheels and hand brakes. An attached seat and basket may also come in handy.

Non-slip matting can be applied to the floor in front of seating to prevent slips and falls when getting up.

Grab bars placed around the home make it easier to move around independently.

Dining aids
Independence tip: When cooking, use the back burners on your stove and keep the handles turned inward.

Weighted or angled utensils will make it easier to pick up food.

Specially formed plates with a suction cup base make it easy to retrieve food and reduce the chances of a spill.

A rocker knife will help you cut food more efficiently.

There are also a variety of weighted and spill-proof drinking glasses available.

Use a straw when drinking to strengthen the muscles in your lips, mouth and throat.

Lifestyle aids
Independence tip: Choose wraparound clothing when possible, or select items with large buttons or Velcro or zipper closures.

A dressing stick will help you get in and out of clothes more easily, especially if you have shoulder weakness.

Cards enthusiasts will benefit from playing card holders and battery-powered card shufflers.

Anti-slip mats in the bathroom will create a more stable surface in the shower or bathtub.

If you're caring for a loved one with Parkinson's, The National Parkinson Foundation's 30 Days of Caregiver Tips is a great resource. Remember that you don't have to do this alone. Support groups and respite care are always available to you.