Live a Functional Productive Life with Parkinson’s


Occupational Therapy can help Parkinson’s Patients lead a Functional Productive Life

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects, predominantly dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain, called substantia nigra. A disease that affects both the “motor” and “non-motor” functions in the body.

Generally, symptoms develop slowly over the course of years and can vary from person to person. Motor functions that are typically associated with Parkinson’s are:

  • Bradykinesia (Slowness of Movement)
  • Dyskinesia (impairment of voluntary movement)
  • Dystonia (Involuntary Muscle Movements)
  • Facial Masking
  • Postural Instability (Trouble with Balance & Falls)
  • Rigidity (Stiffness)
  • Stooped Posture
  • Tremor
  • Trouble Moving or Walking
  • Changes in Handwriting
  • Speech & Swallowing Problems

How an Occupational Therapist Can Help

Occupational therapists are specialists who promote health and well-being. With Parkinson’s disease, their primary objective is to enable patients to participate in the activities of everyday life. They work 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 a task or the environment to better support functional safe engagement.

Occupational Therapists provide assessment, treatment, and recommendations in areas such as:

  • Prevention of falls – Therapists can recommend alternative equipment when carrying items such as shoulder bags or body belts.
  • Sit-to-stand transfers – Teaching suitable worded verbal cues and suggesting equipment to provide stable seating in the shower.
  • Bed mobility – Teaching and helping the family with touch and verbal cues to help with positioning.
  • Eating and drinking – Recommending sitting posture, swallowing techniques, and verbal cuing. They may also recommend specialized utensils or cups to help decrease the effect of tremors when bringing food or drink to the mouth.
  • Self-care routines – Address positioning and assistive tools to decrease the difficulty of dressing.
  • Domestic and social skills – It is important to address relationship dynamics, promoting daily routine, and support social habits as much as possible.
  • Fatigue management – Assist with assessing the level of ability a person has. OTs focus on the performance of a skill and suggest alternative ways to perform a task or suggest breaking tasks down into steps. Achieving a goal is often more important than the timeline.
  • Handwriting – OT’s can provide hand exercises and eye to hand coordination and memory skill training to maintain written communication

Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, it is possible to have a productive quality of life. For more information and research go to Parkinson Foundation.

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Ask your primary doctor for a recommendation to an Occupational Therapist who can help guide you to the best exercise program for your needs. There is also a great list of Occupational and Physical therapy clinicians in our directory.