Equipment to help you get around

If your Parkinson’s symptoms affect your ability to move around, there is a range of equipment available that you may find helpful.

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These can help you move around the house more independently. Extra stair and wall railings can give you more support and guidance in areas of your house where it’s easier to fall, such as staircases, corners or entryways. 

Grab rails are available in a variety of sizes, textures and direction. It's important to think about what you want the rail to help you with as that can help decide which type of rail you need. For example, horizontal rails in a bedroom can help with getting dressed or getting in and out of bed. 

Vertical handrails from floor to ceiling may be useful for getting in and out of the bath, or beside a toilet where lack of space means other rails won’t fit. 

Getting handrails installed

Speak to an occupational therapist or local council office. They may arrange an assessment from health or social services to see where hand and grab rails would fit in your home. Self-assessment is available in some areas.

Care and Repair can install handrails if you live in a private housing. Your local Age UK office may also be able to assess your home and install rails at a small cost. 

If you live in a housing association property, you should contact your landlord. 

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Walking sticks are commonly used to improve balance and give extra support. 

A walking stick can also be a helpful way to signal to others around you that you need extra room or time to move around. Some people with Parkinson’s find this reduces anxiety caused by people crowding them, which could lead to freezing

Types of walking sticks

Wooden sticks – these have a set height and usually a curved handle.

Metal sticks – these can be extendable (height-adjustable), folding, collapsible, and three- or four-footed. They can have moulded or curved handles.

Elbow crutches – some people find using two elbow crutches gives more support than a pair of traditional walking sticks, but crutches may not suit everyone. 

Walking sticks with folding seats – these are larger and heavier than most other walking sticks, so may not be appropriate for everyday use. They might be useful for shopping or in social situations where where you want to take lots of breaks. 

Lasercane – these are designed to help people with Parkinson’s who experience freezing. The Lasercane projects a red laser beam onto the ground in front of your feet when walking. This cues you to step over the light when your feet freeze. 

Some people find a Lasercane very effective, but it can be difficult to see the laser beam in bright environments, such as outdoors on a sunny day. 

Nordic poles – these thinner, longer, lightweight poles are used for Nordic walking. In this style of walking, the specially designed poles help you move forwards. They often have replaceable tips to suit different surfaces, such as pavements or soft ground. 

For more information about Nordic walking, contact British Nordic Walking or Nordic Walking UK.

Choosing a walking stick

When choosing or adjusting your stick, wear your usual footwear. If you stand with good upright posture the handle should line up with the bump at the bottom of your wrist bone, with your arm hanging naturally at your side. This will mean that your elbow bends slightly when you hold the handle.

If you don’t have much upper body strength, choose a stick that is light and easy to move forward in time with your stride. You may find the heavier three- or four-footed sticks are more difficult to move forward and may trip you up. Choose a handle that is a shape and size that lets you grip it as strongly as you can. 

Walking sticks are tested to a maximum weight, so check that yours is appropriate before buying.

Buying a walking stick

You might be able to borrow or be given a stick free of charge through the NHS, either from a physiotherapist, a Parkinson’s clinic or your GP surgery. 

You’ll have a much wider choice at most mobility shops and larger pharmacies. Here you can try different styles to find which is most comfortable and offers you the right level of support.

It’s a good idea to look online at the prices of different walking sticks to compare with those you can buy in shops. Websites such as Amazon or eBay will list many sellers and brands of walking sticks. Charity shops may also have walking sticks.If you are buying second-hand equipment check it's not damaged or unsafe in any way. 

You may find it helpful to have 2 or 3 walking sticks, so that one can be kept on each level of your house and another for outdoor use. 

Walking sticks should be regularly checked for wear and tear. If the tip of the stick (the ferrule) becomes worn, it must be replaced. Your local physiotherapy department can do this for you. 

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A walking frame or walker is a supportive frame used while walking. It can give you a higher level of support than walking sticks or rails, and can help you keep your balance, preventing falls. 

A walking frame may help you keep your balance when getting up from a sitting position or when preparing to sit down. Using a walking frame can also increase your ability to get around on your own. Many people find a walking frame helpful for short outings such as shopping.

Types of walking frames

Non-wheeled walking frame – these may have an adjustable height. They are usually made from a lightweight metal alloy, but make sure the walking frame is light enough for you to lift and move forward easily. 

Collapsible or folding walking frames – these are easy to store either at home or in the car when travelling. 

Wheeled walking frames – these may have 2, 3 or 4 wheels, made from different materials:

  • Hard plastic wheels – these are light, but don't have any give, so can be hard on the joints on uneven outdoor surfaces and noisy on pavements.
  • Rubber wheels – these can be heavy, but work well outdoors.
  • Pneumatic wheels – these are good for walking trails or cross country, but can be heavy and more expensive.

Other features – wheeled walking frames often have a fixed or folding seat, which may be useful to rest on during walks. But sometimes people find the seat gets in the way or adds too much weight to the frame, making it difficult to push or move around. Some walking frames have baskets under the seat or on the handle bars, which can be helpful for carrying things. 

Choosing your walking frame

Before buying a walking frame, think about where you will want to use it. For example, will it fit through doorways when you're at home? 

Four-wheeled walking frames tend to offer more support than three-wheeled ones because they are wider and are usually made of heavier materials. This makes them particularly good for taller or heavier people, and also people who tend to fall over more often or who experience involuntary movements (dyskinesia) or tremor. But heavier frames may be more difficult to use, and to lift in and out of cars. 

Sometimes a walking frame may ‘get away’ from the person using it and cause them to fall. There are different types of brakes available. Make sure they are easy for you to use, as some can be difficult if you experience rigidity or weakness in your hands.

Make sure your walking frame is at the right height for you. The Disabled Living Foundation guidelines say that the hand grips should be at wrist height when the elbow is slightly bent.  

Buying a walking frame

If possible, try lots of different styles to see which allows you to walk most naturally. 

It may be possible to borrow or be given a walking frame through the NHS, either from  a physiotherapist, a Parkinson’s clinic or your GP surgery. Mobility shops and larger pharmacies will stock a range of walking frames that you can try to find out which is most comfortable and provides you with the right level of support.

You may find it useful to have 2 or even 3 walking frames so that one can be kept on each level of your house, and possibly another stored in your car boot for use away from home.

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Some people with Parkinson’s don't want to use a wheelchair all the time, but have one at home for if they are having a bad day or in their car for when they go on longer outings. 

Some people also find wheelchairs a good way of exercising because they can push it and sit in it when they get tired. Manual wheelchairs may be moved by the person sitting in the chair (self-propelled) or pushed by someone else (attendant-propelled). In both cases, the person moving the wheelchair will need a fair level of strength and fitness. 

Types of wheelchairs

Collapsible wheelchairs – often wheelchairs are collapsible, with removable wheels. This can help you store the wheelchair more easily at home and in your car. It's also possible to get a folding backrest with handles that fold down. 

Detachable chairs – these have seats that detach from their base so you can slide the seat onto a base in the car. This means that there is no need for the person sitting to transfer between seats. 

These are usually quite expensive and heavy, so they require some strength to move between the seat bases. They also require a hoist operated by another person to move the base into the boot of the car. 

Power packs – many people attach a power pack to the bottom of their manual wheelchair, which means that less force is needed to push the chair. This can be a good option for longer outings, but because it can be difficult to attach, it may not be useful for very short journeys. Power packs for manual wheelchairs don’t fit all wheelchairs. 

The pack is also attached quite low to the ground, so it can get caught on steep ramps and other surfaces.  

Comfort and safety tips

  • Always apply the brakes when the wheelchair is not moving.
  • Adjust the footplates to the correct height so you can sit comfortably and move them out of the way when you are getting in or out of the chair.
  • A cushion can be used in a wheelchair to prevent excess pressure if you feel uncomfortable after sitting for over half an hour.

Choosing your wheelchair

Look for a wheelchair that: 
 

  • is not too heavy to lift, and collapses easily if you or someone else will be putting it in the car regularly 
  • has handles at a height that means the person pushing the wheelchair doesn’t have to stoop down to reach them 
  • has large enough wheels to go over kerbs easily has anti-tipping features. A lap strap can be helpful, especially when going over kerbs or single steps. A chest harness may also be helpful if you slide out of a chair, or a one-way glide sheet that is designed to limit how easy it is to slide forward
  • has sturdy footplates. If you experience dystonia or severe dyskinesia, the muscular strength can force the footplate into the wrong angle in cheaper chairs. Plastic footplates can break more easily, or can interfere with the freedom of the front wheels, especially for turns and reversing if they are pushed down

Buying a wheelchair

Ask your GP or local hospital if they have wheelchair services. You may also qualify for credit towards the cost of a wheelchair if you want to buy one yourself. If you are eligible for a wheelchair in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, you will be provided with one. 

Wheelchairs are often available to hire or buy from charities such as the British Red Cross. You can also borrow different wheelchairs from mobility centres so you can try it before buying one. 

Shopmobility schemes allow you to hire an electric wheelchair in large shopping areas. 

 

"I now have a range of living aids at my disposal which...are proving really helpful."

In spring last year, Roger, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 12 years ago, tripped in the garden and broke his hip. Here he shares how daily living equipment aided his recovery, but has since proved valuable as his Parkinson’s symptoms have progressed. 

Video

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Using a walker

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"I've been using this walker for about a year now and it's really made people want to help me more.

"Before that I had a walking stick for about 6 months, and before that I was trying to struggle along without any aids at all."

Watch our short film to hear about Bob's experience of using a walker.

Last updated October 2020. We review all our information within 3 years. If you'd like to find out more about how we put our information together, including references and the sources of evidence we use, please contact us at [email protected].