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Facilitating the daily life of someone with Parkinson’s disease who you care for
If someone you are caring for has Parkinson’s disease, you have probably observed one or more physical symptoms.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease. If the person you are caring for has Parkinson’s disease, you have probably noticed one or more of the following physical symptoms: fatigue, tremors, muscle stiffness, slowness of movement, poor balance, stooped posture, slurred speech, or difficulty writing. These impairments have an impact on daily life. Here are some tips to help them live better with this neurodegenerative disease.
Encourage the activity and mobility of the person you are caring for who has Parkinson’s disease
Studies show that regular physical activity helps control symptoms and improve quality of life. Before starting an exercise program, it is advisable to consult a physician or physiotherapist:
- Allow the person you care for to perform daily activities on their own whenever possible, giving them the time and means to do so;
- Encourage them to do stretches every morning and make it part of their daily routine;
- Encourage them to walk regularly, exaggerating the length of their steps. Do not hesitate to use a technical walking aid or to consult a physiotherapist if necessary.
Promote good posture
People with Parkinson’s disease have a characteristic posture: neck, shoulders and torso bent forward. This posture can cause difficulty with breathing, swallowing and speaking. Remind them to keep their back straight and head upright, and to pull their shoulders back slightly when sitting.
Focus on meaningful activities
Ask the person you are caring for what activities they find most rewarding. If possible, synchronize these activities with the periods of maximum effectiveness of their medication.
For example, you can suggest a progressive muscle relaxation activity. It consists of contracting and relaxing different parts of the body. The exercises performed help to soothe the discomfort of a stressful situation and to reduce the muscular disorders caused by Parkinson's disease. Explanations (in French) can be found in this video, this audio capsule or this guide.
To learn more about adapted physical activity and posture, we invite you to consult the Adapted Physical Activity section of the Parkinson Québec website or the Exercise for People with Parkinson’s guide from Parkinson Canada.
Use dishes with high edges and non-slip bottoms and utensils with large handles to make picking up food easier;
- Encourage the person to keep their torso as straight as possible while eating;
- If you notice that they are having difficulty swallowing, talk to their doctor or a speech therapist.
Personal hygiene and dressing
- Choose loose-fitting clothing, pants with elastic bands, and avoid small buttons or snaps that are difficult to manipulate;
- Provide shoes with non-slip soles and Velcro closures: shoes with laces can be difficult to tie;
- Encourage them to wash while sitting down to reduce fatigue.
Verbal and written communications
- Ask the person you are caring for to read a short newspaper or magazine article aloud, exaggerating the intonation and pronunciation of the syllables. A weak, monotone voice is a common symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Do not hesitate to seek the advice of a speech therapist if symptoms worsen and impair communication;
- Encourage the person you are caring for to write regularly, exaggerating the font size to help maintain legible handwriting. Micrographia (“flyspecking”) is a common symptom in people with Parkinson’s.
Adapting the home
- It is a good idea to remove rugs from the floor to avoid tripping. One of the characteristics of Parkinson’s gait is a decrease in the height and length of steps;
- Install a non-slip mat at the bottom of the shower or bathtub;
- If possible, change round door handles to wider, drop-down handles that are easier to open;
- Safety equipment can be installed in the bathroom to facilitate movement and help prevent falls.
If the person you are caring for is having difficulty with specific activities or if your home needs to be adapted, an occupational therapy evaluation can help maximize their independence. You should never hesitate to ask a healthcare professional for advice at any time.
- Parkinson Québec provides support services including an information and support line, tools to create an exercise routine and the Parkinson Info Guide (in French only);
- Educational publications are available from Parkinson Canada for people with the disease and their caregivers;
- Resources and references on Parkinson’s disease are available in one place, including the telephone support service offered by Parkinson Québec, the Caregiver Support Helpline from l’Appui pour les proches aidants and the Parkinson Canada Information and Referral Line.
Need to talk?
Contact our Caregiver Support Helpline for counselling, information et referrals.
Every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Free of charge.