An Introduction to Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. The disease is named after the British physician James Parkinson, who first described the condition in 1817. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder, which means that it worsens over time. Symptoms include tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Parkinson’s disease can affect people of all ages; however, it is more common in older adults, with the average age of onset being around 60 years old. Parkinson’s disease has no known cure, but treatments are available to help manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for those with the condition. Research continues to be conducted on Parkinson’s disease, intending to find a cure.
Common Symptoms Associated with Parkinson’s
The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are tremors, stiffness, and difficulty
with movement and coordination. These symptoms typically start on one side of the body and progress to the other side over time. Let’s take a deeper look into some of the symptoms (National Institute on Aging, 2017):
Bradykinesia is a hallmark symptom of Parkinson’s disease and refers to slowness of movement, which can include difficulty initiating and performing complex movements. The slowness of movement associated with bradykinesia can affect a person’s ability to perform daily tasks, such as dressing, eating, and bathing. It can also lead to reduced arm swing while walking, a shuffling gait, and a general lack of facial expression or “masked face.” One way bradykinesia can be measured is through the finger-tapping test, in which a person is asked to tap their fingers as quickly as possible. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease may have difficulty completing this task due to slowed movement.
Rigidity is another common symptom of Parkinson’s disease that refers to stiffness in the limbs and muscles, which can cause discomfort, pain, and difficulty with movement. Two types of rigidity are commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease: lead-pipe rigidity and cogwheel rigidity. Lead-pipe rigidity refers to a continuous resistance to passive movement, whereas cogwheel rigidity refers to a rhythmic, jerky resistance to passive movement. Like bradykinesia, rigidity can affect various body parts, including the arms, legs, neck, and trunk. It can make it difficult to perform daily tasks, such as getting dressed or in and out of bed. In addition, rigidity can contribute to postural instability and an increased risk of falls, particularly in older adults.
Postural instability refers to difficulty maintaining balance and can increase the risk of falls, particularly in older adults.
Changes in speech and writing: Parkinson’s disease can cause changes in speech and writing, such as a soft or monotone voice, slurred speech, or difficulty with articulation.
Cognitive changes: Parkinson’s disease can also cause cognitive changes, such as difficulty with memory, attention, and problem-solving.
It is important to note that not everyone with Parkinson’s disease will experience all of these symptoms, and the progression and severity of symptoms can vary widely between individuals. Additionally, some of these symptoms can be caused by other conditions, so it is essential to seek a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. A proper diagnosis can help ensure you receive appropriate treatment and support.
Can Occupational Therapy help manage Parkinson’s symptoms?
Occupational therapy focuses on helping individuals perform activities of daily living (ADLs), such as grooming, bathing, and dressing, as well as instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), such as managing finances and cooking. In Parkinson’s disease, occupational therapy can play a significant role in helping individuals to manage their symptoms and maintain their independence.
One of the main goals of occupational therapy in Parkinson’s disease is to help individuals maintain their ability to perform ADLs and IADLs. Occupational therapists work with individuals to assess their abilities and limitations and to develop individualized plans to help them meet their goals. Interventions may involve using adaptive equipment, such as specialized utensils or shower chairs, or modifying the environment to improve safety and accessibility.
Another important aspect of occupational therapy in Parkinson’s disease is the management of motor symptoms, such as bradykinesia and rigidity. Occupational therapists use various techniques to help individuals manage these symptoms, such as task-specific training, exercise, and range-of-motion activities. They may also work with individuals to develop strategies for conserving energy and minimizing the impact of motor symptoms on daily activities.
In addition, occupational therapy can play a role in addressing non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as cognitive changes and depression. Occupational therapists may use cognitive-behavioural therapy, stress management, and relaxation techniques to help individuals manage these symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. Check out our other posts on cognitive-behavioural therapy and relaxation therapy by clicking or tapping the images below.
Occupational therapy is often integrated with other treatments for Parkinson’s disease, such as medication and physical therapy. By working together, these treatments can help individuals to manage their symptoms and maintain their independence, allowing them to continue to engage in meaningful activities and improve their overall quality of life.
Managing Eating Difficulties in Parkinson’s Disease
Occupational therapy can be crucial in helping individuals with Parkinson’s disease
manage their eating difficulties. One of the first things an occupational therapist will do is assess the cause of the difficulty. Is it due to a weak grip or tremors interfering with eating? Various utensils on the market can help individuals with Parkinson’s disease eat more independently. These include built-up utensils with a wide circumference to hold onto, weighted utensils, and stabilizing utensils with sensors that detect the force and direction of tremor and move to counteract it. However, the best type of utensil will depend on the individual’s specific needs and preferences.
Positioning during eating is another crucial consideration. Eating in a recliner chair or bed can make it difficult to get food to your mouth when lying back. The best position for eating is sitting in a supportive chair at a kitchen table, and occupational therapists can assess the positioning of the individual and find the best setup for them. By adjusting the environment and utilizing appropriate utensils, individuals with Parkinson’s disease can improve their ability to eat independently.
Strategies for Improving Writing and Computer Use
Occupational therapy can also be a valuable resource for individuals with Parkinson’s disease who experience difficulty with writing. Similar to eating, positioning is an important consideration when writing, and individuals should make sure they are sitting in a comfortable chair at a desk that is at a good height for them. Various writing utensils on the market can help, such as weighted pens or those with built-up grips.
Adaptive keyboards and software programs can also help decrease typing mistakes and make typing on a computer easier. Speech-to-text options are also available, allowing individuals to dictate what they want to write and eliminating the need for typing.
A trick often recommended to make computer use easier is to decrease the cursor speed setting so that the cursor tracks more slowly across the screen. Slowing the cursor speed can make it easier to see and control. By utilizing appropriate tools and techniques, individuals with Parkinson’s disease can improve their ability to write and use computers.
Navigating Parkinson’s Disease: Helpful Online Resources
There are several online resources available for people with Parkinson’s disease,
Parkinson’s Foundation (https://www.parkinson.org/): The Parkinson’s Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides information and resources for people with Parkinson’s disease, their families, and healthcare professionals. The website offers a variety of resources, including educational materials, a Parkinson’s helpline, support groups, and events.
Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (https://www.michaeljfox.org/): The Michael J. Fox Foundation is a nonprofit organization that funds research to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. The website offers resources for people with Parkinson’s disease, including information on treatment options, clinical trials, and community events.
American Parkinson Disease Association (https://www.apdaparkinson.org/): The American Parkinson Disease Association is a nonprofit organization that provides support, education, and research for people with Parkinson’s disease. The website offers a variety of resources, including information on living with Parkinson’s disease, research updates, and a helpline.
Davis Phinney Foundation (https://www.davisphinneyfoundation.org/): The Davis Phinney Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides information and resources for people with Parkinson’s disease. The website offers resources on living well with Parkinson’s disease, including exercise programs, nutrition information, and support groups.
Parkinson’s UK (https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/): Parkinson’s UK is a nonprofit organization that provides information and support for people with Parkinson’s disease in the United Kingdom. The website offers a variety of resources, including information on living with Parkinson’s disease, research updates, and support groups.
These resources can provide helpful information and support for people with Parkinson’s disease, their families, and caregivers.
National Institute on Aging. (2017). Parkinson’s Disease. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease#:~:text=Parkinson
Occupational Therapy | Parkinson’s Foundation. (n.d.). Www.parkinson.org. https://www.parkinson.org/library/fact-sheets/occupational-therapy