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Occupational Therapy

What is Occupational Therapy?

In life with PD, you may have encountered speech or physical therapists. Where does occupational therapy fit in and how is it different? First, note that the word “occupation” in OT means “activity.” Our job in OT is to identify strategies that will allow you to continue doing activities that are important to you. Each person with PD will have different goals based on his or her symptoms and disease progression, as well as individual lifestyles, interests and priorities. Whether you have been living with PD for one month, five years or 20 years, and whether your goal is playing tennis or spending time with family, our approach is the same: to find ways to match your personal strengths with activities and an environment that will help you reach your goal.

Occupational Therapy Programs with PAA

This January, two occupational therapy students completed a seven-week clinical placement at the Buchanan Centre. During their time with us they offered a group program which gave participants the opportunity to work on fine motor skills through hand exercises, functional activities, and games. This group was aimed at those who find that they are having difficulty doing tasks that involve using their hands, such as buttoning their shirt, cutting their food, turning keys, handwriting, etc. It targeted hand strength and dexterity, which are important for various daily activities.

The students, under guidance of their practicum supervisor, also offered individual assessment and interventions to clients, both virtually and in person. The number of sessions depended on the needs and availability of the client. The activities the OT’s focused on were completely based on the need of the client. Common interventions provided for Parkinson’s Disease include:

• Handwriting strategies
• Exercises for strengthening, balance, fine motor skills, & coordination
• Tremor management
• Fatigue management
• Anxiety management
• Fall prevention and education
• Household management
• Strategies to manage challenges with memory or concentration
• Chronic pain management
• Building and maintain routines
• Caregiver training on how to help loved ones with mobility challenges

Please note that this list is non-exhaustive! Occupational therapists are happy to work on other activities, from present wrapping in the winter to playing golf in the summer.

More Information

A major symptom of Parkinson’s disease is fatigue. Here are some tips you can try using to help manage your fatigue:

Conserve energy by sitting to do tasks such as doing the dishes, folding laundry, etc.

Break up big tasks into smaller tasks. For example, start doing some dinner prep in the morning or early afternoon, take a break, then finish making dinner closer to your regular mealtime.

Consider adaptive equipment such as a bathtub seat to allow you to sit when bathing, or a bed rail or pole to make getting out of bed easier.

Organize and plan activities ahead of time to avoid extra steps.

Prioritize what is most important for you to get done. Delegate or ask for help for other, less important things.

Balance periods of activity and rest throughout the day. It is better to spread out your activities rather than schedule all your activities for one chunk of the day.

Falls can be common in those with PD. Postural instability, impaired balance and visuospatial disturbances can contribute to falls. Here are some fall prevention tips:

• Try to avoid multitasking when walking. Talking or eating can be done once you arrive at your destination.
• Place chairs around your home to take breaks if necessary.
• Try carrying objects in a backpack or in your pockets instead of holding them in your hands, which can cause you to lose balance.
• When working from a standing position, such as cutting vegetables on the counter, consider sitting instead of standing if balance is an issue.
• Eliminate glare and clutter on floors in the home.
• Install a night light if you are getting up during the night to use the washroom.
• Regular physical exercise can contribute to a reduced risk of falls.
• If falls are unavoidable, having an action plan and means of calling for assistance can lessen distress in the moment.
• Practice an appropriate and safe way to get up off the floor.