Many people with Parkinson’s live alone and manage very well. But it’s natural to feel lonely sometimes or worry how to get help when you need it.
Explore some of the issues related to living alone and what you can do to maintain your independence for as long as you want.
Living alone when you have Parkinson's
Paul discusses his experience of living alone and how he's not afraid to ask for help.
Staying connected with other people
Many people with Parkinson’s have told us that they get a lot of emotional support by making time for family and friends, and meeting others with similar experiences.
Living alone can sometimes make meeting others a bit more difficult, but there are ways to stay connected.
You could try:
Making the most of social contact
You don’t have to see lots of people or go to big events, such as a party, to feel connected.
Something like starting a conversation with a neighbour or inviting a friend around for tea can help.
- Join a club or class - This might be something that relates to a passion or hobby you have. For example, a language course or a photography class.
- Organise a regular outing - Getting out at regular times can help establish a routine. This might be something like going to the cinema, going to a book club or an exercise class.
- Volunteer - This can be a great opportunity to meet like-minded people while doing something you enjoy. Volunteering can also be a good alternative if you’re no longer in paid work but would like to use your skills. Have a look at our volunteering opportunities.
Meeting others with similar experiences
You can also use the Parkinson’s UK online forum to chat to other people in similar situations to you.
If you’re single and interested in dating, there’s no reason Parkinson’s should stop you. We’ve heard from many people living with the condition who have developed long relationships after diagnosis.
Find out more about relationships and Parkinson's.
Maintaining your mental health
Everyone feels lonely at times. But constant feelings of loneliness or isolation can have a negative effect on your mental health, so it’s really important to get help before the situation gets worse.
Finding ways to cope with your thoughts and feelings will improve your mental health and help you to better manage all the practical issues that Parkinson’s can cause.
Talking to someone you trust about your feelings may be helpful. You may choose to talk to someone who knows you well, such as a partner, relative or friend.
But some people like to speak to someone who is not close to them. This could be a health or social care professional, a Parkinson’s nurse or your Parkinson’s local adviser.
You could also speak to a professional counsellor. They will help you look at your life and the feelings you have in a safe environment.
They won’t give you medical advice, but they’ll give you space and time to consider your feelings and actions to give you an idea of what you find hard and why. This can help you to sort out your feelings, accept your situation or make changes to your life.
Many GP surgeries have counsellors attached to their practice or can give you information about other local counsellors.
There are also other counselling organisations that can give you information and details of private counsellors. These include Relate and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.
We also have a peer support service where you can speak to trained volunteers who have a similar experience of the condition as you.
You may also find the Parkinson’s UK self-management programme useful, where you can meet other people with the condition to talk about best ways to navigate life with Parkinson’s.
Depression and Parkinson’s
If you have lasting feelings of extreme sadness for weeks or months, you may be depressed.
Depression can be common among people with Parkinson’s, whether someone is living alone or not. A person who is depressed will typically feel a lack of interest in or pleasure from usual activities and may also feel down or hopeless almost every day.
Depression can be treated. Speak to your GP, Parkinson’s nurse or specialist.
Suggesting getting a pet if you live alone may seem a cliche. But studies have shown that owning a pet, such as a dog, can have a therapeutic effect and improve quality of life.
As well as providing company, having a pet may also motivate you to keep active and get out and about.
Keeping a pet is a long-term commitment and you should always seek advice from specialist organisations or charities before making any decisions, such as a reputable animal rehoming centre in your area, or the RSPCA or Scottish SPCA.
Some people with Parkinson’s who live alone find that they can manage their symptoms well day to day and don’t need any help.
But, as the condition progresses, some people may find they need some support doing everyday activities, including:
- getting dressed
- making meals
- washing up
If you find daily activities difficult, talk to your GP, Parkinson’s nurse or specialist about what sort of practical support you may be able to access. An occupational therapist or social services assessment may be helpful.
Your Parkinson’s local adviser can also provide details of, and links to, local services.
How can an occupational therapist help me?
An occupational therapist can help you maintain your health and independence so you can carry on doing activities that are important to you.
They may be able to help by:
- providing help and training on new ways to carry out daily activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, working and learning
- offering advice on adapting your home or workplace to meet your needs
- assessing and recommending equipment and advising on aids to help around the home or workplace
- giving you advice on getting out and about
- promoting your sense of wellbeing by helping you find ways to continue with hobbies and interests, such as gardening or sports
You can usually contact an occupational therapist through your GP, your social services or social work department, or health and social care trust.
You can also access occupational therapy privately, though this will cost money.
How can social services help me?
Your local social services or social work department should arrange support if you need help to live independently because of your age, health condition or disability.
If you fit into any of these categories they must assess you to see what services you need and what’s available in your area.
A care manager or social worker will carry out a needs or care assessment. This will usually take place in your home, and will take into account your personal needs and your social and cultural background.
They will then develop a care plan with you and give you a copy of it. This might be provided by your local social services or social work department, or department of health and social services, or by private agencies and voluntary organisations.
Different local authorities have their own ways of deciding who gets access to which services.
The types of services available will change according to where you live. It might include help in your home with things like housework, day care, equipment or changes to your home. They may also be able to help with things like leisure and meeting people.
Who pays for social care?
Your needs assessment is free of charge. Who pays for any services that social services recommend depends on your finances and whether you qualify to receive the services where you live.
Contact your local social services or social work department for more information. You can also call our helpline on 0808 800 0303.
Staying safe while living alone
If you live alone, you may have concerns about being able to manage day to day in the safest way possible.
You may want to think about:
- preventing falls or other injuries
- reducing your vulnerability. For example, avoiding scam or nuisance phone calls or rogue doorstep traders
An occupational therapist can advise you on safety in and around your home. They may suggest:
- using non-slip mats in the bath or shower
- rearranging furniture to make moving around your house safer
- checking that electrical leads don’t cross walkways
- fixing loose carpets and floorboards
- installing grab rails alongside stairways and in places that you find hard to move around
- using equipment or disability aids to make some activities easier and safer
- installing a ‘key safe’, where a wall code is fitted to the house. This means that keys don’t need to be left under doormats and multiple keys don’t need to be handed out. People such as carers can also access the property in an emergency
While there are many genuine tradespeople and officials, it’s wise to be on your guard when you answer your door. Doorstep scammers can be pushy.
- If someone comes to your door, ask for their identity card and check it carefully. Keep your utilities services phone numbers handy so you can easily call and check an official’s identity.
- Don’t be afraid to ask a salesperson to leave. If they refuse, call the police.
- Don’t agree to sign a contract or hand over any money until you have talked to someone you trust.
Unwanted phone calls
If you want to block cold callers, you can register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
This is a free service, where you join an official, central register to record your preference not to receive unsolicited sales and marketing calls. When you’re registered, all organisations are legally required not to contact you, unless you have given them permission.
It’s important to note that the system is not 100% effective and you may still receive some unsolicited sales and marketing calls.
For further advice Age UK have lots of information about home safety and security.
If you live alone, an Age UK personal alarm can give you peace of mind, because you can get help quickly in an emergency.
It works by pressing the button on a pendant or wristband, which will connect you to Age UK’s 24-hour emergency response centre. They will contact your nominated friends or family to come and check on you, or if it is really urgent, the emergency services.
Message in a bottle scheme
This works by you placing your basic personal and medical details on a form and keeping it in the fridge in a green bottle. You then attach a sticker to the fridge and to the inside of your front door.
Emergency services are trained to look for this and it can save them valuable time if they need to enter a property in an emergency situation.
Lions Clubs International run the scheme in partnership with some local NHS services.
Will I need to make changes to my home?
This may depend on how well you feel you're managing at home. Some people need to adapt their home to make living with Parkinson’s easier.
There is a wide range of aids and equipment available which may help with particular problems. For example, you could improve access to your front door with a ramp, refit a bathroom to make it easier to manage or put in a stair lift.
However, equipment and aids aren’t always the answer and they can be very expensive. We recommend you get advice from an occupational therapist before buying anything.
If you're looking for information on equipment for daily living, charities such as the Disabled Living Foundation can help.
Welfare benefits and finances
It’s important to make sure you're getting the financial support you are entitled to. Remember that, even if you're still working, you may be entitled to certain grants or benefits if you live alone.
You can check you're getting all the benefits you’re entitled to by asking your Parkinson’s local adviser, or speaking to a dedicated adviser for benefits and employment on our helpline 0808 800 0303.
Some people with Parkinson’s may find it difficult to leave the house at times. This can cause problems if you need to get cash from a bank or get your benefits. It might be possible to arrange with the bank or benefits provider to have someone trusted collect this on your behalf.
You may also find it useful to do the same with service providers (such as utilities companies), if you have problems using the phone.
You may have questions about managing your money when living alone. You can get free advice on debt from StepChange Debt Charity.
The Money Advice Service can also give free advice on things such as mortgages, borrowing money and insurance.
Planning for the future
It may be that you’re not sure whether you want to think too far ahead. But you may find it helpful to learn more about your options so you can be prepared when things come up.
For example, you may need to consider who will look after your finances if you're no longer able to, or whether you need any extra support and how this will affect where you live.
Talking to someone you know and trust about future decisions can be helpful. This might be a person with an understanding of Parkinson’s, such as your GP, specialist, Parkinson’s nurse, or one of our helpline and Parkinson’s local advisers.
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Last updated March 2016. 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].