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Living with Parkinson’s Disease: Lifestyle Adaptations for the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

Elderly people living with Parkinson’s disease can experience different levels of symptoms. Some seniors with Parkinson’s might only have milder symptoms like tiredness or a slight tremor in the hand. On the other hand, an elderly Parkinson’s disease patient might also have symptoms like muscle stiffness, slow movement and tremors that interfere with daily life.

For most older people living with Parkinson’s disease, lifestyle changes can help them manage their symptoms and stay as healthy as possible. In this piece, we’ll review some lifestyle adaptations that might be beneficial, depending on a person’s level of symptoms.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Often diagnosed after the age of 50, Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which parts of the brain begin to deteriorate, causing problems with movement as well as other symptoms. Typical Parkinson’s disease symptoms are muscle stiffness, tremors and slow movement. However, a variety of other symptoms can also occur, including dementia, dizziness and trouble with sleeping and swallowing.

What lifestyle changes might be needed?

Since the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary so much and can range from mild or severe, there’s no set of lifestyle changes that are needed for every senior with the condition. However, we’ll discuss some common adaptations that are needed based on certain symptoms.

Do you need to make dietary changes?

Calcium and vitamin D

Parkinson’s disease can make your body worse at absorbing nutrients, so it can lead to weaker bones. For this reason, older people living with Parkinson’s disease may want to ask their doctor to check their bone health. If bone weakness is a concern, patients should be extra careful to get the nutrition from calcium and vitamin D that they need, as these nutrients work together to help bones stay strong.

Food that’s easy to swallow

Many people with Parkinson’s disease have problems with swallowing. This is because muscles in the tongue and throat aren’t working as well as they should. For people who do find swallowing difficult, doctors may recommend certain types of food that are easier to swallow. For example, they might recommend avoiding hard or dry food, which could carry a risk of choking.


Some Parkinson’s disease medications shouldn’t be taken at the same time as a meal with lots of protein, such as meat or eggs. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have protein – you should! Just check the details of your medication, and if it shouldn’t be taken with protein, switch up your meals or meal timing.

How can you make your home safer for movement?

An elderly person with the common Parkinson’s disease symptoms of tremors, slow movement and stiffness will likely experience some issues with walking and moving around. Some Parkinson’s disease patients also experience a sudden “freezing” in the middle of a movement, which also carries the risk of a fall.

Depending on their needs, there are many home modifications that can help a senior living with Parkinson’s disease to move around more comfortably and safely.

Some older people who feel their balance isn’t strong find it helpful to install grab bars in the shower and by the toilet. There are bars you can install by your bed to help you get in and out as well.

Since elderly people with Parkinson’s disease may have a shuffling gait, it’s best to clear floors and make sure there are no rugs that can easily be tripped over.

If an older person with Parkinson’s disease lives alone, or spends time alone during the day or night, and is worried about falling, a personal alarm with automatic fall detection may be a great option. These alarms call for help without any input from the wearer when they detect a fall, so there’s no need to worry about problems with movement that make it difficult to press a button.

Can you drive with Parkinson’s disease?

The one thing that all people living with Parkinson’s disease must do in relation to driving is to contact their licensing agency and inform them about the diagnosis. It’s actually a crime not to! Even if your doctor just suspects you have Parkinson’s disease, you have to tell them anyway.

People with a GB driver’s licence can notify the DVLA online through a simple form.

So, can you drive with Parkinson’s disease after doing this?

As with many aspects of Parkinson’s disease, patients’ ability to drive varies greatly. Once you’ve told your licensing agency about your diagnosis, they will take their own steps to determine whether you are safe to drive or not. That might include getting in touch with your doctor.

Should you exercise?

Yes! Although it might seem that Parkinson’s patients’ difficulties with movement would mean it’s better for them not to move, that isn’t the case at all.

For one, as we’ve discussed, Parkinson’s disease can cause weak bones – but exercising strengthens bones.

More importantly, studies have shown that two and a half hours of exercise each week can have a significantly positive effect on Parkinson’s disease symptoms, potentially even slowing down the disease’s progression. That’s how important exercise is.

What kind of exercise is good for older people with Parkinson’s disease?

Check with your doctor about what kinds of exercise are best for your symptoms. Walking is known to be a beneficial exercise because it often boosts mental health as well as providing physical health benefits while remaining low impact.

How SureSafe can help with peace of mind for elderly people living with Parkinson’s disease

SureSafe’s specialty is personal alarms for elderly people who value their independence but also like to know help will always be there if they need it.

24/7 monitoring can offer just this kind of peace of mind for older people with Parkinson’s disease. When stiffness, tremors or sudden freezing raise the risk of a fall, a personal alarm can provide assurance because it can call for help any time, even at night. There’s no need to be restricted to staying at home, either – a mobile alarm with GPS tracking ensures that you can still easily call for help even when you’re out and about.

To talk with us about how personal alarms can offer peace of mind when falling is a concern, reach out to us at 0800 112 3201 or through our live chat, or request a call back if you like.

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