If you have Parkinson’s disease, there are steps you can take to improve your health and safety, such as creating a safe home environment and taking medications exactly as directed.

After Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder. It’s estimated that 1.2 million people in the United States will be living with Parkinson’s by 2030.

If you’ve received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, there are some steps you can take in your daily life that will help promote your health and safety.

The main symptoms of Parkinson’s are motor symptoms, such as tremors, slow movement, and rigid muscles.

As Parkinson’s progresses, these can begin to significantly affect your gait, balance, and posture. This can increase your risk of falling.

Research has estimated that 45–68% of people with Parkinson’s fall each year. About 80% of falls take place in the home, most often in the bedroom and bathroom, but also in other areas like the living room and kitchen.

This means ensuring that your home is safe is vital.

Below are some tips to help promote safety in your home:

  • Keep furniture out of your hallways and walkways to make them as wide and as open as possible in order to accommodate a walker or wheelchair.
  • Consider putting carpets or rugs on any hard floors and tacking them down so they cannot move or slip.
  • Keep electrical cords out of the way so they cannot be tripped over.
  • Remove clutter on the floors and stairs to reduce the risk of tripping.
  • Ensure that all furniture is secure and doesn’t move or swivel, placing it so that you have something to grab onto as you move around the house.
  • Aim to have furniture that’s easy to get in and out of, such as:
    • sturdy chairs with armrests
    • an elevated toilet with armrests or a grab bar
    • a bed that’s not too high off the ground
  • Use good lighting that minimizes shadows and glare.
  • Install assistive devices to help with daily activities, such as grab bars in the bathroom and a bed pole in the bedroom.
  • Place frequently used items at an easy-to-reach height.

Parkinson’s is most often treated with medications. As such, it’s important to keep track of and properly administer all of your prescribed medications.

Follow the tips below to help manage your medications safely:

  • If you receive a new prescription, familiarize yourself with it. Carefully read each label and note the size, shape, and color of any pills or tablets.
  • Take each medication exactly as directed on the label.
  • Use methods to remind you to take your medications on time. Some examples include daily pill boxes, calendars, or reminders on your phone.
  • If you have trouble taking your medications or remembering to take them, don’t hesitate to ask a loved one for help.
  • Make a list of all of your medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, as well as supplements. Include details like the name, dosage, how often you take it, and the prescribing doctor. Keep this list on hand to share with your healthcare team. Also, give a copy to a trusted loved one or caregiver.

Some medications can interact with Parkinson’s medications or make your Parkinson’s symptoms worse. Be sure to talk with your doctor about medications to avoid or use with caution.

Working with an occupational therapist can help you develop strategies that will help you perform daily activities at home and in your community, maximizing your independence.

For example, an occupational therapist can help you with:

  • creating a safe environment at home that’s organized according to your individual needs
  • modifying or adapting daily activities, such as personal hygiene, household chores, and eating or drinking, to make them easier for you to do
  • suggesting assistive devices that help simplify your daily routine
  • supporting your continued engagement in work, social, or leisure activities

Engaging with a physical therapist can help you address the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. The goal is to boost overall health as well as to promote your independence in daily activities.

They can teach you various exercises that can help to improve:

  • posture
  • balance
  • mobility
  • strength
  • flexibility

In addition to medications, occupational and physical therapy are also vital parts of Parkinson’s treatment. And yet only 14% of people with Parkinson’s use physical, occupational, or speech therapy as a part of their treatment.

If you’ve received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, talk with your doctor about physical and occupational therapy. Many insurance plans, including Medicare, will cover these services when they’re medically necessary.

There’s no specific dietary recommendation for Parkinson’s. Although more studies into diet and Parkinson’s are needed, research generally supports a healthy dietary pattern for reducing Parkinson’s severity.

This includes focusing your diet on:

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, people with Parkinson’s who began exercising at a minimum of 2.5 hours per week early after their diagnosis had a slower decline in their quality of life.

The foundation recommends:

As always, it’s a good rule of thumb to talk with your doctor before making any substantial changes to your diet or exercise plan.

What to avoid with Parkinson’s

If you have Parkinson’s, there are some things to avoid when it comes to diet and exercise. For example, things that you can reduce or eliminate from your diet include:

For exercise, try not to push yourself too hard or too fast. It’s OK to modify certain exercises if needed. Only exercise when you’re taking your Parkinson’s medications (during your “on” period). If you cannot safely exercise on your own, be sure to have someone present when you do.

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Parkinson’s is a progressive condition. This means that it continues to get worse with time.

It’s hard to predict how Parkinson’s will progress on an individual basis. As such, it’s important to look out for signs that your Parkinson’s is progressing. These include:

If you notice signs that your Parkinson’s is progressing, contact your doctor to discuss your next steps. There may be medications or non-medical treatments available that can help to manage your symptoms.

In order to promote your overall health and ensure that your Parkinson’s is effectively managed, make sure to schedule follow-up visits with your primary care doctor and any recommended specialists.

A few tips for preparing for a follow-up are:

  • Write down any questions or concerns for your doctor beforehand.
  • Bring an up-to-date list of all prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and supplements that you’re using.
  • Pack a pencil and notepad with you to take notes.
  • Consider bringing a loved one with you to your appointment to take notes or remind you of any topics you planned to discuss.

A 2023 study of Medicare beneficiaries found that 40% of those with Parkinson’s disease had not seen a neurologist in the past year. Also, few Medicare beneficiaries used physical, occupational, or speech therapists.

Specialist care is vital for Parkinson’s. If you’re currently not seeing a neurologist or other specialist as part of your Parkinson’s care, discuss this with your primary doctor. They can make recommendations or refer you to a specialist.

If you have Parkinson’s, there are many things you can do to help improve your overall health and safety.

These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • improving home safety
  • carefully managing medications
  • working with physical and occupational therapists

Remember that your care team is there to support you. If you have any questions or concerns about Parkinson’s or your treatment plan, be sure to bring them up.