Break Free From Parkinson’s With The Right Assistive Devices

Break Free From Parkinson’s With The Right Assistive Devices

An image of David Norris owner and founder

Yes, there is an assistive device for Parkinson’s Disease that can help you live life better. The problem is it can be overwhelming to find and frankly many people just don’t have the time or energy to do the work. So this means, getting one that looks right. But, this can be expensive and frustrating when it doesn’t live up to the goals you had for it.

It’s clear the right aid can play a vital role in supporting individuals with PD to remain independent and engaged in their daily lives.

In this article, Senior OT for Parkinson’s outlines the common assistive aids that occupational therapist prescribe as well as how you can get right assistive device to help you improve your daily living. Let’s dive in. 

In this article you'll learn:
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    Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting 150,000 Australian’s. 38 people every day are newly diagnosed each day.  For many the first question they as “What can I do about it?”.  

    As the disease symptoms progress, it can cause a variety of motor and non-motor symptoms, including tremors, rigidity, freezing of gait, balance problems, and cognitive changes.

    These symptoms can impact a person’s ability to perform everyday activities, including self-care, mobility, communication, and leisure pursuits.

    An image of a wheelchair, walker and cane.

    Parkinson’s Disease Assistive Devices- Is There A Best One?

    With a “good fitting – fit for purpose” assistive device has the potential to help you overcome the challenges of Parkinson’s Disease symptoms so you can perform your daily activities more easily.

    But that is the rub, isn’t it – what’s a good fit aid?

    What’s right for you will be different to the next person. This makes a big headache for any professional trying to navigate the science and studies as there is so much diversity in people’s needs.

    That’s where an Occupational Therapist can be a valuable team member.

    You see, occupational therapists help assess the needs of individuals living with Parkinson’s and create customized solutions for them. You may have seen OTs prescribe assistive devices like

    • standard walkers, shower chairs, elastic shoelaces, electric razors, electric toothbrushes, ambulatory devices such as scooters or wheelchairs and laser lights  and the list goes on.

    The right assistive devices and assistive products can be an invaluable tool for those living with Parkinson’s Disease, providing a greater sense of independence and improved quality of life. The flip side of when they aren’t right is cost, not really helpful so they end up being ignored and gathering dust and at worse creating injury, harm or greater disability.

    So let’s, consider the changes that a person may experience across 3 distinct stages of Parkinson’s disease. These stages represent the disease severity from ” how does it affect a person”  You could also consider it as light, medium or severe disease symptoms.

    FREE REPORT: 13 Breakthrough Principles For Parkinson’s Disease

    Break Free From Parkinson's With The Right Assistive Devices

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    Image of a lady holding a cane and someone's hand on top of hers for comfort.

    Early Stage of PD 

    In the early stages of PD, individuals may experience mild symptoms that do not significantly impact their daily living. However, it is essential to address any changes in functional abilities early to prevent further deterioration. Occupational therapy can assist individuals in identifying assistive aids that can help support their daily activities, such as:

    Mobility aids – canes, walkers, and rollators can help with balance and stability while walking, and promote safety.

    Freezing aids – A cane with light or laser or walking poles can project a visual cue to help overcome freezing of gait and even home modifications and task changes can be so helpful at this stage. This freezing of gait article goes deeper into this frustrating disease experience.

    Chair and Bed Transfers – devices such as bed rails, transfer poles, and risers can help with getting in and out of chairs and beds safely.

    Meal Preparation – cutting boards with suction cups, adapted utensils, and jar openers can help with meal preparation tasks.

    Communication – voice amplifiers, speech therapy apps, and high-contrast keyboards can aid in communication difficulties.

    Image of a bathroom with a grabrail and a cane.

    Stage of PD

    As PD progresses, symptoms may become more intrusive on daily life, and the need for assistive aids becomes more pressing. Occupational therapy can assist in identifying additional assistive aids, such as:

    Tremor Management – weighted utensils, writing aids, and buttonhooks can help with tremors.

    Car Use – hand controls, swivel seats, and turning automotive seats can help with car access and driving.

    Falls Prevention – grab bars, raised toilet seats, and shower chairs can help prevent falls.

    Fall Detection – fall detection systems can alert caregivers or emergency services in case of a fall.
    Memory – visual aids, cueing devices, and digital reminder systems can help with memory problems. With over 50% of people living with PD having memory and thinking problems frequently seen these memory aids being prescribed in our dementia assessment programs
    Feeding – special cutlery, plates, and cups can assist with feeding tasks.

    Handwriting – weighted pens, adapted grips, and digital writing tools can help with writing tasks.

    Navigation – GPS tracking devices, smartphone apps, and voice-activated assistants can help with navigation within the community.

    Domestic Skills – robotic vacuum cleaners, voice-activated appliances, and home automation systems can assist with domestic tasks.

    Mood Support – music therapy, aromatherapy, and relaxation techniques can support mood and promote relaxation.

    A lady being pushed in a wheelchair by a carer

    Late Stage of PD

    In the late stages of PD, symptoms have contributed to marked disability and so a person’s functional abilities may be significantly impacted. Occupational therapy can help individuals with PD and their caregivers to identify a wide variety of assistive aids that can help with:

    Positioning Support – Changes in a person’s body shape can have an affect on how they sit in a chair comfortably. Chair prescription and modifications can help keep a person in a comfortable position

    Pressure Care Management – being more sedentary there is an elevated risk for pressure sores. As the name suggests, too much pressure can damage the skin. This is especially the case around our sit bones for example. Cushions, Chairs and Mattresses are common areas that an OT will prescribe a pressure risk reduction aid.

    Bathing and Dressing–  Fatigue, posture and medication cycles can have an affect on performing daily hygiene tasks. An OT will look at what’s need and may discuss options like  tilt in space shower chairs for example

    Transfer Aids– Fatigue, strength, memory and attention skill changes can make moving from bed or chair to standing very challenging. These “transfers” can be supported with mechanical aids from support belts to hoists.

    Mobility Aids– Much like the chairs above, posture, movement control and memory and thinking changes can cause significant changes to a person’s skills to walk or manage a wheelchair or other aid.

    You’d appreciate, there is a lot here. No doubt, when we start discussing daily life problems, more often than not, we want to quickly get to solutions.

    Sadly, it misses out a vital step to ensure the right device is purchased. One that works for today’s need as well as tomorrow’s.

    So, here’s what needs to happen.

    Occupational Therapy Assessment For Parkinson’s Disease

    The assessment process is critical in ensuring that the right assistive aids are prescribed to support people living with Parkinson’s Disease.

    As an occupational therapist, a thorough evaluation of a person’s functional abilities, needs, and limitations is crucial to develop a personalised intervention plan.

    Assessment For Better Assistive Aids

    Good evaluation helps the OT to identify the specific challenges the person with PD is facing, such as tremors, freezing, and cognitive difficulties. It enables the therapist to determine the person’s strengths, weaknesses, and preferences and collaboratively establish goals for intervention.

    The AT assessment ensures that the prescribed assistive products and aids are:

    1. Tailored to the person’s specific needs,
    2. Takes into consideration factors such as their stage of Parkinson’s,
    3. Level of disability, access to support and the physical environmental context.

    Sounds like a lot, but an experienced OT will have this in hand.

    Understanding this helps with accurate prescription of the right assistive aids and empowers people living with Parkinson’s to maintain their independence, enhance their quality of life and live more fulfilling lives.

    Image of David Norris owner and Founder

    Here’s How An OT Can Help You Get The Right Assistive Device

    If you or a loved one is living with Parkinson’s Disease and facing challenges with daily activities, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Occupational Therapy Brisbane is here to help.

    Our team of occupational therapists are dedicated to working with people with Parkinson’s to enhance their independence, participation, and wellbeing.

    You can expect your OT to work  with you to understand your unique needs and develop a personalized intervention plan that empowers you to achieve your goals.

    Whether it’s managing mobility, addressing cognitive impairment, memory and thinking difficulties, or improving self-care tasks, our team is committed to supporting you every step of the way.

    So, don’t let Parkinson’s hold you back from living your best life or leave the question unanswered “ What Can I Do About It?” instead call Occupational Therapy Brisbane today at 1300 783 200 to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards a more fulfilling and independent life. 

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