Winter often brings unexpected weather and for many, the shorter days can lead to vitamin D deficiency, increasing chances of developing seasonal depression. The good news is that the Parkinson's Foundation Ohio Chapter has gathered these tips to help people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and their caregivers ensure that PD-related needs are accounted for this winter.
Parkinson’s can affect mobility, memory and thinking skills. People with PD may experience tripping or “freezing” episodes that can lead to falls. Add snow and ice to the equation and winter can be an especially dangerous time. To stay safe this winter:
- Wear shoes with good traction and non-skid soles.
- Take off shoes as soon as you return home. Snow and ice attach to soles and as they melt lead to slippery conditions inside.
- Shovel the path to your door, garage and mailbox to clear them of leaves, snow or ice. If possible, ask someone to shovel for you.
- Be realistic and ask for help walking outside when you need it. Don’t let pride lead to a fall!
- Use salt before or immediately after a storm to melt icy sidewalks and steps. If you don’t have salt, cover the ice with something gritty or non-slippery (like sand or cat litter).
- Replace a worn cane tip to make walking easier.
- Allow yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go in winter weather. Taking your time reduces your risk of falling, especially if you use an assistive walking device.
With depression as a common PD symptom, people with Parkinson’s should be conscious of their increased susceptibility to seasonal depression, which can be brought on by the cold and grey or the potential isolation of the winter months. Take these precautions:
- Ask family and friends to check in on you, either by stopping by or planning a regular phone call.
- Bring up seasonal depression concerns with your doctor. An adjustment to antidepressant medication dosages may be beneficial.
- Continue your exercise routine. Fight the natural tendency to exercise less in winter months. If the weather keeps you indoors try a new YouTube Exercise video.
- Open all blinds or curtains to allow as much natural light into your home as possible.
- Try something new. Visit a new coffee shop, read a new book, try a new support group or exercise class.
- Keep up with your routine and social activities even if you don’t feel like it.
Preparing for Electrical Outages or Being Snowed In
Harsh winter conditions can lead to electrical shortages and unpredictable interruptions. The best time to prepare for a winter storm is now. Follow these tips:
- Write down or print a full list of your medications (not just PD medications). Include medication name, strength, times taken and dosages. This customizable medication schedule can help.
- Stock your Aware in Care kit in the event you need to educate an emergency responder or health care professional about your PD needs. Order one at www.awareincare.com.
- Keep a PD Medical Alert Card with you at all times. Print additional copies at www.awareincare.org/whats-in-the-kit.
- Make a list of your doctors. Be sure to include contact information and take it with you if you need to evacuate your home.
- Purchase extra water and food. In the event of a big storm, calculate five gallons of water per person per day and buy enough food to last three to five days. Remember to factor in that some medications require they be taken with a meal and water.
- The stress of possibly losing power can make anyone anxious, but stress can worsen PD symptoms. Try to relax by reading a book by candlelight or practicing deep breathing.
Call the toll-free Parkinson's Foundation Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) to speak with a PD specialist about seasonal depression, falls prevention, emergency preparedness or to order the free Aware in Care kit.
Annie Wallis, MSW, LSW, is the Program Manager at the Parkinson's Foundation Ohio Chapter, where she leads their support, education and community granting programs. As a licensed Social Worker, she is passionate about making sure that Ohioans with PD and their loved ones have all the support and tools they need to live well with Parkinson’s.