How to Care for Parkinson's Patients at Home
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
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.
Child's Pose to Cobra Stretching to Open Up the Back
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.
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.
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