How to Care for Parkinson's Patients at Home

Updated on July 21, 2020
Natasha Tungare profile image

A neurophysiotherapist who believes in improving the physical as well as mental wellbeing of patients!

Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system. Parkinson's disease occurs because of reduced levels of dopamine in the brain, a chemical that regulates many functions. The major symptoms of Parkinson's include the triad of bradykinesia, tremors, and rigidity.

There are times when patients may not be able to leave the home, for example, during the stay-at-home order in the 2020 COVID-19 epidemic. This duration can be critical for elderly, patients and persons with disability. One of the population which is at high risk are Parkinson's disease patients.

Being homebound, they are unable to get access to physiotherapy clinics and clinical out-patient departments, so their exercise and rehabilitation can be hindered.

In this article, I describe some methods that patients and their caregivers can implement to reduce the affects of any gap in therapy while they wait to resume their regular treatment regimen.

Upper Thoracic Extension Exercise

Alternating between bringing the hands together and bringing the elbows together helps maintain range of motion in the upper back.
Alternating between bringing the hands together and bringing the elbows together helps maintain range of motion in the upper back. | Source

Thoracic Opening Exercises

Rigidity affects thoracic mobility severely, therefore, maintaining thoracic mobility is very important. Rigidity leads to stooped posture in Parkinson's disease patients. Thoracic opening exercises play a vital role in maintaining posture and range of motion.

  • Thoracic rotations while seated or standing can reduce stiffness.
  • Lying on your back or sitting on a sturdy chair, placing a firm pillow behind the back will help stretch the thoracic spine (see sketch below).
  • Bending exercises, such as child's pose to cobra stretch, can promote more of back extension exercises.
  • Upper back extension exercises (see image below) helps prevent slouching posture.
  • Staying at the endpoint of the stretches is important to achieve complete range of motion.

Pillow positioning

Lying on your back with something like a firm pillow to prop you up can help open up the cervical and thoracic spine.
Lying on your back with something like a firm pillow to prop you up can help open up the cervical and thoracic spine. | Source

Child's Pose to Cobra Stretching to Open Up the Back

Gripping Exercises

One of the classical symptoms in Parkinson's patients is involuntary tremors of the fingers, which prevent them from grabbing objects properly or performing fine movements such as writing.

Doing wrist and hand exercises at home can help regain and maintain muscle control and strength. You can use items found around the home, such as a water bottle, a paper-punch machine, or rubber band for hand exercises. Practicing writing is one if the best exercises you can do to regain muscle control.

Use a hair tie or rubber band provide resistance as you slowly open your hand.
Use a hair tie or rubber band provide resistance as you slowly open your hand. | Source

Working on Daily Activities

Parkinson's symptoms presents challenges to normal daily activities. Balance issues lead to difficulty moving around the house and more frequent falls. Here are a few modifications you can implement at home to perform your daily activities safely and with confidence:

  • Do your exercises before everything! Never skip your exercises because they will help prevent symptoms from becoming worse.
  • Practice controlled walking—forwards, backwards, side to side, up and down stairs.
  • If there is severe difficulty in walking, then make sure there are mats on the floor to avoid any injury.
  • For elderly patients, it is better to have handrails in the washroom. If not handrails, then a cane or walker can help support you as you move around.

While exercising and practicing different types of walking, please make sure you have someone with you to supervise.

The more you practice what you find difficult, eventually the difficulty vanishes!

Mental Health Care

Staying at home or in isolation can be especially difficult with respect to mental health. Psychometric changes like frustration, irritation, mood swings, and sometimes depression can occur in Parkinson's disease. In addition to physical exercises, it is also important to know how to take care of your mental health.

  • Music has proven to be a therapy for mental health. Listening to music and singing can help keep the mind peaceful.
  • Write your thoughts down. It can be a great way to organize your thoughts or just vent.
  • Keep your mind engaged by reading.
  • Use the extra free time at home to learn new things, take on a new hobby, or resume an activity you didn't have time for before.
  • Spend time with your family and friends.

Final Thoughts

Parkinson's disease will not worsen if you continue to take care of your physical and mental health even at home. If you cannot leave the house, there are online resources, including telemedicine and YouTube videos, to help you stay on track. Your doctor's office may offer appointments through video calls, or they may know where you can make such an appointment. Speak with your doctor to learn more about what you can do at home to improve your health. Stay safe and stay healthy.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Natasha Tungare

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    • Natasha Tungare profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Tungare 

      3 months ago from India

      Thank you so much @Brenda Arledge maam!! So glad to know that you find this article worth a read! Hope it turns out to be helpful for Parkinson's patients and their caregivers

    • Brenda Arledge profile image

      BRENDA ARLEDGE 

      3 months ago from Washington Court House

      This is a very good article.

      I think it is great advice for everyone of us to keep in mind and practice.

      I am sure it is trying for those with Parkinson's and other diseases who can no longer make it out for appts.

      Great writing.

    • Natasha Tungare profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Tungare 

      3 months ago from India

      Thank you so much @Prantika di!!

    • Kh swati profile image

      Swati Khandelwal 

      3 months ago from Nainital

      I pray to God no one ever had the disease, but if it happens then it's a great as article to provide knowledge

    • PrateekJain24 profile image

      Prateek Jain 

      3 months ago from Madhya Pradesh, India

      I really liked the article because it contains many things and medical terminology which i wasn't aware of till now. How to deal with tremor, also you explained how to perform thoracic exercise with the help of image which gives the clear picture of that exercise. It appears that you have made a lot of effort to present this information before us. Thank you for sharing this valuable information.

    • hmkrishna profile image

      Halemane Muralikrishna 

      3 months ago from South India

      Some of the usual excercises do unusually better than medicines with regard to neuro-muscular cases. Though I had a knowledge of this, what was good to Parkinson's patients, I was not knowing. Well written, Ms Natasha.

    • sachnikh profile image

      Nikhil Sharma 

      3 months ago from India

      I've never heard or read about this disease before. But in this article, you've described each and every thing with clarity and concisely.

      Loved the way you showcased how to do various kinds of exercises, especially with that drawings.

      In this difficult lockdown time, it is our responsibility to look after our elders and senior citizens, and if possible, keep them cheerful. I'm sure your article will benefit lots people. Thank you for sharing a wonderful article.

      If possible, I'd suggest you to write another part of this article, describing everything about this disease, including a brief history, symptoms, and it's cure. Thank you.

    • Prantika Samanta profile image

      Prantika Samanta 

      3 months ago from Kolkata, India

      Thank you for sharing such a wonderful and thoughtful article. It will help people suffering from Parkinson's disease.

    • Natasha Tungare profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Tungare 

      3 months ago from India

      Wow @Liz Westwood!! You have totally got it right! Thank you so much for this lovely and perceptual feedback!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      Everyone can at times moan about lockdown. But it's one thing for the fit and healthy and a totally different situation for those not so. This is a very helpful and thoughtful article for those caring for someone with Parkinson's and for those suffering from Parkinson's.

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