In mid-October, the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) hosted a webinar with advice from an occupational therapist on how those with Parkinson’s disease (PD) can organize surroundings and improve daily routines. Occupational therapist Dr. Erin Foster described new approaches to using the computer, using a cell phone, writing, preparing meals, organizing a home, and more tips that can make life easier with PD. This webinar is part of the APDA’s “Dr. Gilbert Hosts” series. We at Stanford Parkinson’s Community Outreach attended this interesting webinar and are sharing our notes.
Parkinson’s disease affects everyone differently. Each individual person’s disease is different from the next person. According to Dr. Foster, there are habits that can be incorporated into your daily routine to help deal with symptoms and live life more fully.
The APDA webinar was recorded, and is accessible on YouTube here.
Check out this Stanford Parkinson’s Community Outreach webpage for general tips on how to stay independent:
Driving was mentioned during the question-and-answer session. For more resources on driving with PD, see this Stanford Parkinson’s Community Outreach webpage:
Driving with PD
If you are looking for more gadgets or equipment ideas, check out this list, notes, and video recording from a caregiver meeting Stanford and Brain Support Network co-hosted this summer:
Gadgets, Equipments, and Supplies – Notes from June Meeting
My detailed notes about the APDA webinar are below.
– Sheela Sakariya
“How to Outsmart Parkinson’s Disease: Tips & Tricks from an Occupational Therapist” – Webinar Notes
Webinar Host: American Parkinson Disease Association
Webinar Date: October 20, 2021
Speaker: Erin Foster, PhD, Asst Professor of Occupational Therapy, Washington University School of Medicine, MO
Summary by: Sheela Sakariya, Stanford Parkinson’s Community Outreach
Using computers and cell phones have become parts of our daily lives; hence, it’s important that individuals with PD keep certain tips in mind.
- Appropriate body position
- Adaptive keyboards
- Software programs
- Test out accessibility settings
- iPhone: Settings > Accessibility
- PC: Control Panel > Ease of Access
While writing is a recommended part of daily life with PD, it can be a tedious task especially as the writing becomes progressively smaller and irregular. Dr Foster provided the following tips that required planning ahead for individuals to make writing a more pleasurable experience.
- Take breaks
- Appropriate body positioning
- External cues (lined paper, metronome)
- Internal strategies (making large movements, writing in block letters not cursive, practicing handwriting)
- Adapted utensils
Dr. Foster re-emphasized that with some planning and organizing, meals preps can become easier for individuals with PD.
- Organize items for easier access
- Slide or roll heavy items (insead of carrying it)
- Sit while prepping
- Adapted utensils & surfaces (gloves, no slip surfaces)
- Cognitives strategies (planning, timers, checklists)
With PD, timing of medication can be critical for managing symptoms, maintaining function throughout the day, and being able to sleep. People with PD oftentimes take many different medications at multiple different times throughout the day.
- Invest in pill organizers
- Purchase some pill splitters
- Use reminders
- Keep an updated list of medication
- Track side effects and symptoms
Getting out of bed
Getting out of bed and moving in bed can be difficult for people with PD. So, not surprisingly, there are lots of tricks/equipment to do this safely.
- Bed rails (grab and turn yourself in bed, can also help you get into and out of bed without making it a challenging activity)
- Movement strategies (bend your knees, roll on your side, swing your arms, use your bed rail, use your arms to get up)
- Lightweight bedding
- Consider comfortable loose fitting bed clothes that allow you to move freely
Many PD individuals experience falling as a common symptom. There are specific ways to get up safely and here are some tips.
- Take a deep breath and look at yourself for any injuries
- Evaluate your surroundings to see where you are
- If there is tendency to fall a lot, then it may make sense to get some type of alert device that notify others (family members/care takers)
- Crawl to a table/chair and then get up using the support of a stable surface
- Plant your heel first when you take a step.
- Don’t move quickly.
- Work to keep your posture straight as you walk, and look ahead instead of down.
- Change directions with a U-turn instead of a pivot.
- Try not to carry anything when you walk.
- Don’t walk backward.
Getting in and out of car
With PD your daily tasks become increasingly more complex. Again, sit down, and plan ahead to understand how investing in some strategies/devices can help with your car movements.
- Use a handy bar (help push yourself out of the car)
- Attach a strap (to help pull yourself)
- Get a swivel seat (makes it easier to turn one side to another)
- Use some movement strategies (sitting down first, and then moving your legs inside the car is a safer option)
General principles to keep in mind with PD
- Plan ahead
- Pace yourself
- Use your resources
Question and Answer Session:
Question: Who is the appropriate person to evaluate if I am OK driving with PD?
Answer: Having PD does not exclude you from driving. It depends on an individual person, the stage of the disease, cognitive abilities, visual perception abilities, and motor skills. There are driving specialists who can evaluate you for driving. Your local APDA chapter can refer you to professionals in your area who can help you through the process and that person can make recommendations. The answer may be not driving at night, or driving a specific type of vehicle over another. So, getting a professional evaluation is highly recommended in this case.
Question: With PD, at what point do you consider an occupational therapy (OT) consultation?
Answer: PD creeps up slowly on individuals, and things might be so slow that sometimes people with PD don’t even realize the symptoms they are experiencing until someone else notices them. OT (just like neurology and speech therapy) can be initiated at the very early stage of PD because it can be used to address some subtle changes and put strategies in place so you can maintain your current level of abilities.
Question: Do you have any wardrobe suggestions that would allow me to continue to dress independently?
Answer: Yes there are lots of options that make dressing easier for PD individuals. I recommend not purchasing clothes that require hand/finger coordination like buttoning a shirt or tying a knot. Replace buttons with snaps, or velcro or magnets work just as well. There are some clothing lines that already address this issue. One brand that comes to mind is Buck and Buck that are targeted to provide adaptive clothing for seniors, disabled, and elderly care. They also carry elastic, no-tie shoes that are perfect for individuals with PD who find it challenging to tie laces.
Question: I do my physical therapy or OT at home because I no longer drive. I think at home is OK. Your thoughts?
Answer: I personally like home OT because that is where you live and carry out most of your daily activities. It’s a good idea for your OT to do home evaluation so they can assess you in your specific home context. In addition, when the OT comes to your house it can help you figure out how to reorganize and make daily life tasks easier for you.
Question: I have trouble following instructions. Do you have any tips to focus step by step to stay on finishing tasks?
Answer: Slowing yourself down, and breaking down the tasks step by step is a good starting point. It’s a challenge to be able to slow yourself down and think about the tasks that you were able to do smoothly before. Taking some time to think about the task, and writing them down will be a huge help. Again, planning ahead will go a long way when you are trying to do a complex task.
Question: I find living with PD is exhausting. How do you stay motivated to do the tips/tricks you have indicated to fight this disease?
Answer: Great question! It can be overwhelming – you try something and see if that makes one aspect of your life easier then hopefully that motivates you to try more things. Don’t do everything at once – pick up one thing to start with and make it part of your daily routine before you introduce something else.