Provide visual cues and prompts. As Parkinson’s progresses, individuals may freeze and be unable to move forward. Yet a simple visual cue such as a line on the floor for them to step over, or your foot placed a bit ahead can be enough to help them unfreeze and take that step. Verbal prompts can also helpful at mealtimes. People affected by Parkinson’s eat very slowly and must chew a lot. Swallowing can be difficult. A gentle verbal prompt can help them focus and get the food down.
“Knowing about putting my foot in front when their gait freezes was very helpful,” says Margaret Hornacek, HomeCare of the Rockies care managerand caregiver. She uses the technique with clients who sometimes “freeze up.” “This gave me a tool to use and it helped right away and was encouraging for all of us.”
Encourage slow transitions and transfers. Many with Parkinson’s experience orthostatic hypotension or a sudden drop in blood pressure, usually upon standing, Engel says. To offset that, allow time for the individual to sit up before transferring or standing. Then, have them stand for 15 to 30 seconds before actually moving or taking a step .
All of these tips are useful in managing the day-to-day challenges of Parkinson’s.
“To have a bag of tools to pull from to help our clients is very helpful,” Hornacek says. “It also provides peace of mind to our clients and their family. They are comforted by the fact that our caregivers have this focused training.”
Advances in movement therapy have also been shown to be affective and may even slow the progression of the disease.