Annette was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011 when she was in her early 70s. She’s found different ways of staying connected, supported and safe while living alone, and shares some of them here.
I always have my prescription in my handbag and the telephone number of a friend in case of emergency. As I don’t have anyone to remind me to take my medication I set an alarm on my phone. I also have a note on my front door that says ‘pills’ to remind me when I leave the house.
I’ve done a few things to make life easier and safer at home. I have banisters each side of my stairs – fitted for free by my local authority. I’ve also had my bath removed and replaced with a shower. When I decided I wanted a small dishwasher a friend pointed out I could trip over the door when it was open, so I had one installed on top of the kitchen counter, which is great. I have a gas fire but I was worried I might have a fall bending down to turn it on. I was delighted to find out you can have a gas fire controlled by remote, so I now turn the fire on and off while sitting on my sofa!
I’m an active member of a local choir and I go to U3A (University of the Third Age) groups. I also regularly attend a Parkinson’s exercise class and a Parkinson’s dance group – these classes are very enjoyable for the exercise and the socialising.
Having Parkinson’s can be very frustrating and everyone has good days and bad days. I try to have some simple strategies to help me cope with the bad days. I avoid doing things that can affect my balance, so I won’t start weeding in the garden if I don’t feel up to it. I try not to lose my patience when I drop things, or can’t open a can or find the milk. I just remove myself from the situation and come back later. If I’m feeling low, I pick up the phone and arrange to visit a friend for a hug and a cup of tea, or to get a lunch date in the diary. Sometimes it helps just putting some music on or watching a favourite TV show.
If I felt like my situation was changing I’d think about joining an emergency alarm scheme so I could get help at the push of a button. I’d also talk to my GP, Parkinson’s nurse and neurologist. And, of course, I’d talk to my friends. But I don’t really live alone anyway – I have my lovely cat Jasper with me!