Support for Parkinson's Disease

Published: March 27, 2014

Parkinson’s disease is related to a loss of nerve cells in your brain that produce a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is important for controlling movement. Parkinson’s disease is the second most common degenerative brain disease, with Alzheimer’s being the first. Most often, symptoms will begin around 60 years of age. Symptoms typically include stiffness (rigidity), shaking (tremor), abnormal walking and balance problems. Because of these symptoms, people with Parkinson’s disease are at risk of falling and breaking their bones.

A common early symptom is a tremor in one hand, most often when you are at rest. Tremors also can occur in your legs or jaw when you are at rest.

As the condition progresses, you may notice other symptoms such as movements being smaller, shuffling when you walk and arms and legs  swinging less when you walk. Your handwriting may trail off at the end of a sentence. You may experience stiffness or rigidity in your muscles, postural instability or a stooped posture. Movements become slower when doing daily activities such as dressing, showering or moving in bed. You may also feel as if your feet have frozen to the floor, making it hard to take a first step.

Dysarthria (difficulty speaking) and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and decreased control of the muscles of facial expression can also occur in Parkinson’s and these symptoms can be improved with speech therapy intervention. Speech therapists help maintain your communication skills and teach techniques that conserve energy. They can teach you to speak more slowly and loudly and how to maintain strength and control the appropriate muscles used for speech and swallowing.

Occupational therapy can address challenges in activities of daily living due to Parkinson’s such as tremors, fatigue and decreased balance. They can assist with handwriting, self-feeding, dressing, energy conservation, grooming, adapting your home for safety and with conserving energy.

There is no way to prevent Parkinson’s disease. However, therapists can instruct in techniques and methods to compensate for, combat or reduce or deter symptoms. Early intervention is extremely beneficial. Studies have shown that people who participated in an exercise program improved walking, balance, strength, flexibility and fitness. Therapy can help develop good long term exercise habits.

The therapy staff at Passavant Community can help you manage your Parkinson’s disease via home health or outpatient services. Our outpatient therapy department can be contacted by calling (724) 625-3492 and home health can be contacted by calling (877) 862-6659.

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