Posted by Nancy Mazonson

When the doorbell rang, Susan was grateful to welcome the long-awaited painter to her home to start on a new project. When he approached the house, he immediately smelled a gas leak, quickly found the source, and turned it off. Susan, who has Parkinson's disease, had been unable to detect the odor of leaking gas.

Cheryl, sifting through her mail, found a scratch-and-sniff card from National Grid. As a responsible homeowner, she scraped her nail along the designated area, but found that she did not smell the anticipated odor.

How are these stories woven together? Both Susan and Cheryl attend a group at JF&CS for women living with Parkinson's disease (PD). When each heard the other's story at a recent meeting, their awareness of the danger that a diminished sense of smell can pose to people with Parkinson's disease was heightened.

When these stories were shared with me, I felt determined to learn what could be done for Susan, Cheryl, and others with PD who cannot detect certain dangerous smells, such as that of a natural gas leak. While following the "scent" of a solution, clear answers did not immediately emerge. Google, National Grid, the gas pipe fitters' union, and even the local plumber could not provide the information I sought and needed.

Then, I visited a large hardware chain store where I scanned the shelves, and stumbled upon this item:

A call to the manufacturer, Kidde, and an email from the Parkinson's Foundation help line both confirmed that this product is the ONLY one of its kind that is available for residential dwellings. According to Kidde, it should be mounted high and requires an electrical source (no batteries).

Our hope is that this information, including the existence of the Kidde Explosive Gas Alarm, can be shared as widely as possible with all of those living with Parkinson's disease so they can feel safer in their homes.

Nancy MazonsonNancy Mazonson, MS, OTR/L, has coordinated the Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson's Family Support program of JF&CS since its inception in September 2006. The program is a leading resource in the Boston area with its unique programs, including Parkinson's Dance, Adult Child and Care Partner support groups, and Tremble Clefs choral singing group. Prior to her work at JF&CS, Nancy worked extensively as an occupational therapist in inpatient and community-based rehabilitation settings, specializing in helping people with degenerative neurological conditions.