I love my apartment. It’s charming, but still functional. It’s quaint, but practical. I’ve clocked many DIY hours making my home into the perfect space that I could feel safe and comfortable in. I would find a problem area, such as having difficulty applying my makeup while standing in the bathroom. Then I would figure out a solution, like creating a vanity in my bedroom, complete with a mirror that lights up and magnifies your pores so much that you don’t want to show your face in public again. Problem solved!
The word “apartment” sounds so uncool, so I’ve elected to call it my studio, my loft, my palace or even my flat. Cheerio. It has the perfect touch of stylish décor, with the practicability of your grandparent’s home… but without the plastic runners and couch covers. Everything has a user-friendly feel, which makes my daily life with Parkinson’s just a little easier. So why is it that I am writing this blog surrounded by moving boxes?
I have always encouraged Parkies to use modifications when faced with challenges, but some feel as if they were giving in, or being defeated by their illness. A perfect example of this is the use of the handicap placard. I hear many stories of Parkies who although would benefit greatly by being able to park their car closer to the entrance of the mall (in which they have just spent hours tearing up) but choose not to. They feel that they’re “not that bad” or they don’t want to submit to needing extra help.
In the last year, it has progressively gotten more difficult for me to walk down a flight of stairs, but in no way did I want to move from my perfect flat. Here’s the catch… I live on the second floor. Everyday I walk up and down my concrete stairs multiple times… usually carrying groceries, or large amounts of Fro Yo. One day, I was taking the trash out, took my hand off the railing for a second and then lost my footing. Dropping the trash bag, I watch it roll down the concrete as I steady myself on the stairs. That was close.
The last month, it seemed as if everyone I bumped into, (poor choice of words) had a story about a Parkie falling. Whether it was about themselves or someone they knew, it all ended the same… broken bones, bruises, cuts, scrapes and even broken DBS wires. In all those stories, there was a modification that would have prevented those falls, such as walkers, canes, pull-up bars or railings. But even looking further into it, there are things that can be done to prevent falls. Anticipating your needs.
Sometimes we are just in the moment, we are single-focused on completing a task. It’s difficult to think ahead because all of our attention is on one thing. We don’t have time to think of the consequences of our actions. Take for example my friend Kevin, who was in a rush because his medication took longer to kick in that morning. As he got out of the shower, he slipped and fell while reaching for his towel. When I asked him about it he said, “It happened so quickly. I didn’t even have time to think. I knew my balance was getting worse, but I didn’t think I would fall in the shower.” I asked Kevin, “ Have you ever thought of putting up a grab bar in your bathroom to help you get out of the tub?” With a chuckle he responded, “ I’m not that old! It was just an off day”.
But Kevin got me thinking if we could all look ahead into the future at what modifications would be helpful for us and then implement them now, we could prevent injuries. We will be staying one step ahead of Parkinson’s.
Now I will lead by example, I’m anticipating my need of preventing falling down a flight of stairs and then finding a modification. I am moving from my 2nd floor perfect palace in the clouds, to a lower level room-with-no-view. Although I am not super excited about people strolling past my living room window and I believe that this move will help me stay safe. I don’t view this move as giving in to Parkinson’s. In fact I’m keeping it in check and not giving the diva disease a chance to get the upper hand.
On my very last day in my flat, all the furniture and boxes have been moved. After I’ve cleaned and vacuumed the entire place, I take one more glance back at my picture-perfect home, then slowly close and lock the door. I grab my vacuum and start to think of all the things I can do to make me new place a wonderful space to live in. I take my first step down. Maybe I can plant vines on the patio to give me some privacy. Another step. I should check out some new curtains for the windows. Then I feel my balance starting to go as I am shaking trying to recover. My first thought is sit down. So I sat back right on my tailbone. Ouch… but it could have been way worse. It was like the universe was reminding me that I had made the right decision. I had anticipated my needs.