Existing home modifications for Parkinson’s disease prove beneficial

My parents moved into a house that already had hand railings and a ramp

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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When my parents moved into their current house about 10 years ago, one thing they quickly learned about the property was that the previous owner had Parkinson’s disease. From what they understood, the man took his last breaths in the house, living out the end of his days in the place they now call home. Some of this information came from the Realtor and some from the property itself.

There were hints about the man’s life, such as a ramp in the backyard leading to the master bedroom and a railing next to the back door. We quickly learned that the latter came in handy when the back step iced over in the winter. But the remainder of the property looked like any other: framed by grass and with perennial flowers popping out of the ground every year.

In some ways, I think my parents liked the idea of being a little closer to someone who’d been through what they’re experiencing. One might view it either as an ominous coincidence or a reminder that we’re not alone in our experiences. I tend to appreciate the latter.

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The thing that stood out to me most about this house was how proud it was. Often with Parkinson’s, it’s easy to remain stubborn when one isn’t ready to accept help. My dad has been known to be this way occasionally. But as a slowly progressing disease, Parkinson’s doesn’t often place major bumps in the road that demand immediate action. In my experience, it takes a long time to rob people with Parkinson’s of their abilities. They can suddenly realize they could’ve used help a long time ago.

Noticing the handrails in various places throughout the house made me grateful they existed, because it was one less conversation we’d have to have with my dad. I wouldn’t have to ask him if he were ready to have them installed. Instead, he could simply decide to use them over time, after exploring whether they might help him.

The house, because of a fixture that represents safety and comfort, felt like a symbol to me. “Dad should stand proud like this house,” I thought.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Patricia KF Bemis avatar

Patricia KF Bemis

This is an amazing and much needed article. I will post this in our PD Resource Center in Honolulu. My husband had PD for 35 years. He was diagnosed before 40. We bought several homes together without the thought of how he would age in those homes. We were lucky with our last home which was a 1 floor condo with wide doorways and hallways. The shower was large enough for a good size shower chair. It had lots of natural lighting for the daytime. He could walk the halls easily for exercise and there was a gym and yoga studio in the building as well. Having these at his disposal was a key for his longevity. Finding a house when living with PD is already tough because the future is unknown to a certain degree but when you find a home that matches you, you struck GOLD. Thank you!

Michele Walker avatar

Michele Walker

I like your perspective about standing tall. Because my husband was paralyzed, our house is wheelchair accessible, but not in a way that makes it look institutional. He was a very proud man and could just about anything by himself with the right adaptations. The modifications that we made to this house are mostly subtle and things others might not even notice, but having them here gives me the confidence that I'll be able to live out my days here comfortably. I'm reminded of the props that I use in yoga class. If they're used to enhance motion without being looked at as a "crutch," they can help us achieve good form with less risk of injury. Isn't that what home modifications do, too?

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

Mary Beth Skylis

Hi Patricia! Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think my parents got lucky. For many people, finding the right situation has to be a lot more intentional. But it's also really important because that's where we spend the most time, right? Finding ways to make it safer for my dad is always a topic that's on my mind.

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

Mary Beth Skylis

Hi Michele, Yes, I think it's easy to get beaten down by a disease like Parkinsons. But in many ways it makes you stronger, too. I think to be able to carry yourself with a bit of pride and dignity despite your difficulties is so powerful.

christopher chesham avatar

christopher chesham

I found a company that does second hand stair lifts ,mine was £500 I have no complaints poss gone up now you want to known contact me as I will think it is against the rules


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