Occupational Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease

Occupational therapy is used to help people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) to continue with their daily tasks as the disease progresses. Occupational therapists can help evaluate and plan these activities that are crucial to the well-being and independence of people with PD.

How can an occupational therapist help?

Occupational therapists are specialists who promote health and well-being. In PD, their primary objective is to enable patients to participate in the activities of everyday life by working with them to improve their ability to engage in tasks they want to, need to, or are expected to do. In many cases, this may require modifying an occupation (task) or the environment to better support occupational engagement.

These therapists provide assessment, treatment, and recommendations in areas such as:

  • Mobility: This includes helping people with PD concentrate on walking, avoiding all non-essential talking when moving, pausing when speaking, and touching something solid to aid balance while walking and standing. Occupational therapists also teach patients how to change direction without abrupt turns to optimize stability. They may also check for the need of walking aids and home modifications.
  • Prevention of falls: Aimed at reducing the risk of falls, therapists recommend that people with PD pay full attention and concentrate on walking and using alternative equipment when carrying items, such as pockets, diagonal shoulder bags, body belts, or trolleys.
  • Sit-to-stand transfers: Sit-to-stand transfers from chairs, toilets, and the bedside may present difficulties for people with PD. Occupational therapists can provide appropriate strategies such as using suitable worded verbal cues and suggesting equipment to aid transfers including chair risers, riser recliner armchairs, and level-access showers instead of a bath.
  • Bed mobility: Therapists teach movement methods for turning over in bed, adjusting a position, and getting out of bed.
  • Posture and seating: Therapists help increase awareness and self-correction of postural problems, assess the need for postural support, and review wheelchair suitability.
  • Eating and drinking: Therapists can recommend good sitting posture, adequate lighting, and ways to have fewer distractions while eating and drinking. Occupational therapists also assess if modified eating and drinking equipment are required to minimize difficulties.
  • Self-care routines: This helps people with PD whose personal care routines have become slow and tiring, which may increase the risk of falls.
  • Domestic skills: Meal preparations, housework, and shopping may be affected due to loss of coordination and balance, and a reduced ability to multitask. Small items of equipment may be introduced to help promote domestic skills, such as non-slip latex for easier jar opening, lever taps to reduce effort when using taps, and a wire mesh to help drain pans or vegetables. Extra assistance for housework such as ironing, maintenance tasks, and management of paperwork may be required.
  • Fatigue management: People with PD find that they become tired more quickly, which may be due to the effort of staying upright and inefficient movement strategies. Occupational therapists can review routines and help prioritize tasks, restructure activities according to energy levels, and introduce regular resting periods, including good sleep.
  • Handwriting: People with PD tend to have micrographia, or handwriting where letters are smaller and sloping toward page corners instead of straight across. Visual or auditory cues as well as sitting comfortably and in an upright position at a table with good lighting may help with handwriting.

Occupational therapists may also help with changes in relationship dynamics by promoting the maintenance of normal roles, daily routines, and social habits as much as possible. They provide support to patients to continue working, and serve as a link between a patient and the workplace. Therapists also help with social, recreational, and leisure activities, and driving. (People with PD must notify the appropriate licensing agencies and car insurance companies about their condition).

Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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