What is Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson's Disease is a progressive, neurological condition where nerve cells in the brain stop working over time, and therefore cannot produce the chemical dopamine. Dopamine sends signals to the brain triggering it to produce smooth, fluid and controlled movement. Without dopamine, movement can become slower and more difficult.
What are the common difficulties associated with Parkinson's Disease?
The symptoms of Parkinson's can be categorised under three main headings and below are some of the functional difficulties they may cause.
- Tremors - such as a trembling or shaking in the hands. This can affect the ability to write, eat, drink, prepare meals or use door keys
- Slow movement due to muscle stiffness - this can mean that carrying out daily tasks such as getting out of bed, on and off the toilet, washing, dressing or using the stairs all become challenging
- Difficulty walking – this can mean an increased risk of falling and a decreased ability to carry out daily activities
If you would like to learn more about how we as occupational therapists can help people overcome common difficulties associated with Parkinson’s Disease, you will find some useful links at the bottom of this page.
How can occupational therapy help people with Parkinson's Disease?
Occupational therapists can work with people with Parkinson's Disease and their families to provide advice, support and guidance during their journey. For some they may require advice on a specific item of equipment whilst for other clients we are involved in more substantial home modifications and support as their needs change with the progressing condition. Below are some ways that an occupational therapist can help:
- Providing advice on new techniques, to continue to complete everyday activities such as dressing and meal preparation for as long as possible as the condition advances
- Support with sourcing the right equipment to help with difficulties as they arise, such as beds or chairs
- Making longer term recommendations to ensure the home environment will meet both current and future needs. This includes considering adaptations such as wet rooms or through floor lifts
- Working with a client and / or their employer to advise on ways to keep them at work for as long as possible. This may involve pacing strategies to maximise energy or work place changes to ensure you are positioned correctly
- Helping manage fatigue by identifying priorities for the day’s energy, whether that be getting the children to bed or maintaining a work role, and then planning how to conserve energy levels for this
- Ensuring the correct seating and wheelchair are provided to maximise function and independence
- Recommending environmental controls which allow the control of functions in the home such as opening curtains, turning on lights or adjusting music or TV settings to be controlled by the client from their wheelchair, armchair or bed. An occupational therapist will work with a client to identify the most suitable environmental controls for them that will preserve their independence for as long as possible