Parkinson’s Disease Top Tips: How to Minimize Motor Symptoms

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The AgingCare.com forum is filled with people coming together to share valuable information. We’ve compiled experienced caregivers’ best tips and suggestions for minimizing the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as bradykinesia, rigidity and postural instability.

Techniques for Improving Movement, Mobility and Posture

“During a freeze, it has been suggested that refocusing attention away from making the foot move forward to the next step can help. This can be accomplished by providing a visual cue to focus on, like using a laser pointer and having them step over the dot or beam of light. A flashlight can offer the same scenario. Stepping on a mark on the floor or past a piece of furniture are a few other examples of ideas that might help.” –IMAWannabe

“My mother has PD. She isn’t totally dependent on me for daily tasks, but she uses a walker and has a problem of always leaning to the right. Her neurologist said it is very common for people with PD to favor one side, and they often don’t even realize they are doing it. If your loved one is comfortable and in no danger of falling , they should be okay. My mom was recently seen by an occupational therapist after leaving the hospital. They suggested I gently remind her when she is toppling over and advise her to lean the other way to compensate (e.g. prop herself on the left arm of a chair as soon as she sits down).” –MRScaregiver

“I am a therapist in home health care and have been for 35 years. One of my specialties is Parkinson’s disease care. Either a physical therapist (PT) or an occupational therapist (OT) can help a great deal if they are trained in neuro-developmental principles. There are a lot of ‘tricks’ that can help a patient interact with his/her environment more efficiently. Therapy can help greatly with transfer ability, feeding, ambulation, how to get unstuck when you get stuck, weight shift activities for balance, therapeutic exercise that can improve daily functioning, you name it. It does not cure, or take away the disease but, it helps patients a great deal when it comes to living with the disease.” –Briscuit

“I’ve heard of the laser-cuing method for freezing. There’s even a new walker on the market with a built-in laser feature that gives the patient something to focus on. I’ve told my mom to pretend she is stepping over a log. That cues her to pick up her foot and get moving again. People with PD forget how to shift their weight from one foot to the other and end up sort of waddling from side to side, which does nothing but wear them out. I frequently have to remind my mom to ‘shift and lift.’ Simple one- or two-word cues are best. It’s hard for them to process longer commands while they’re concentrating on trying to walk.” –jw

“My dad has had PD for 15 years now and had no physical therapy until two and a half years ago. He was headed towards needing a wheelchair, but now he walks 2-3 miles a day with a caregiver. He wears a gait belt for safety. Medicare will pay for weekly therapy with no cap, but you may have to fight for it. I had to discuss this with the owner of the PT facility to get it covered, but once the therapist completed the paperwork to Medicare’s satisfaction, there were no problems going forward. I can’t stress enough how much better Dad is with the regular PT.” –sktingley1

“I have had PD for twenty years and I do lean to one side. One diagnosis I received was Pisa syndrome, which is sometimes seen with PD. However, I am trying physiotherapy. On the side I curve towards, I lean against a wall with my arm up above my head and my torso touching the wall, and I stretch. After a few weeks, I am developing some resistance against falling over while seated. Also opening up my chest by leaning forward into an open doorway with my arms holding onto both sides of the frame helps me...” –anniessong

“Occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy will all enhance the quality of life for people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Many times, the only therapy one hears about in the media is physical therapy. They do a great job, but OTs are prepared to examine areas not explored by the PT, like activities of daily living (ADLs). You can ask your physician for a referral to a licensed home health care agency that offers all three therapies.” –Carlton56

“Take advantage of some of the wonderful assistance products out there for limited mobility and motor function. A swivel seat to get in and out of the car helped my dad a lot, as did specialized, weighted utensils for eating.” —leighbird

“I watch my mom literally willing her legs to move, but they just can’t. They call it ‘freezing.’ It’s as if the impulse to move gets lost somewhere between the brain and the legs. It’s part of the disease. I have learned her mobility patterns and try to take them into account. For example, I know that if she expends all of her energy just getting to the toilet and using it, she doesn’t have much steam left for standing at the sink and washing her hands. Instead, I get her into her chair and then give her an antibacterial wipe that she can use to clean her hands. With neurological conditions, there are always unexpected moments. The other day while the physical therapist and I were working with her, she was doing fine for a while and then suddenly ‘shut down.’ Her balance and energy were gone in an instant and she could hardly move. The PT thought maybe her brain was overwhelmed with trying to process too much at one time. A lot of the stiffness and limited range of motion can be helped by physical therapy and even some medications.”—jw

“When freezing occurs, this helps my dad who has Parkinson’s: as if you are doing the hula, shift your weight from one hip to the other, then shift weight again, then once more, and then move your foot forward.” –kathyt1

Need More Hints and Ideas?
Get answers to your questions in AgingCare’s Parkinson’s Disease Support Group »

Ashley Huntsberry-Lett

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Ashley is responsible for the planning and creation of AgingCare.com’s award-winning content. As a teenager, she assisted in caring for her step-father during his three-year battle with colon cancer. Now, through her work at AgingCare.com, she strives to inform and empower the caregivers who devote so much to helping and healing the ones they love.

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