Helpful tips for living with Parkinson’s

Helpful tips for living with Parkinson's

The diagnosis of Parkinson’s raises many questions for those affected themselves, but also for their families: What effects does the disease have on my life? What restrictions do I have to expect in everyday life? While a normal life is usually possible at the beginning of the disease, complications increase over time. For example, movement disorders, as well as speech and swallowing difficulties, become noticeable. We give you tips on how to stay fit and active despite Parkinson’s disease.

Proper nutrition in Parkinson’s disease

A special diet is not necessary for Parkinson’s, but patients should eat a balanced diet. High-fiber foods prevent constipation, which occurs more frequently in Parkinson’s disease. For example, there is a considerable amount of dietary fibre in whole grain products and vegetables.

Getting enough calcium is just as important because Parkinson’s patients have osteoporosis more often than healthy people of the same age. Dairy products, vegetables and eggs contain a considerable amount of calcium.

In addition to a healthy diet, Parkinson’s patients must pay particular attention to adequate fluid intake. They often drink too little for fear of being clumsy when drinking. Many also want to avoid frequent urination. If there are problems with the bladder, these should be clarified by a doctor. Under no circumstances should those affected drink less because of this.

Necessary: The tablets should not be taken with a protein-rich meal if levodopa is taken. Since the dopamine contained in the tablets also belongs to the proteins, it can otherwise be displaced by other proteins during absorption in the intestine.

 

Diet for swallowing disorders

In the advanced stages of Parkinson’s, swallowing disorders often occur. This is because the tongue is less mobile, and the food is more challenging to transport. However, choking while eating can be avoided with the proper diet.

Porridge and pureed foods are the most accessible foods for people with Parkinson’s to swallow. Ideally, all the food in a meal should have the same consistency – a soup with a garnish or mashed potatoes with a piece of meat are less suitable. Hard, dry or grainy foods should be avoided entirely.

If swallowing problems are present, eating when the medication is optimally effective is best. Eat in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere without distractions from radio or television. When eating, ensure your body is upright, and your head is straight. Since eating and drinking at the same time increases the risk of choking, you should only drink when your mouth is empty.

Keep moving despite Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s patients must remain physically active because sports promote motor skills and allow everyday movements to be mastered better. In addition, regular physical activity can significantly increase life expectancy in Parkinson’s disease. However, when exercising, be careful not to overdo it.

Well suited for Parkinson’s patients are physiotherapeutic and ergotherapeutic measures and light endurance sportsNordic walking is particularly recommended because it trains endurance and, at the same time, promotes an upright posture. Sports such as swimming or gymnastics are also good choices. On the other hand, in tennis, volleyball, or squash, where reaction speed is of great importance, it should be avoided. Even sports with a risk of falling, such as ice skating or skiing, are unsuitable for Parkinson’s patients.

To be able to live independently for as long as possible despite Parkinson’s, it is essential that certain muscle groups – such as the hand and finger muscles – are strengthened in a targeted manner. Therefore, finger gymnastics should be performed regularly (e.g., playing the piano as a dry exercise or kneading a foam ball). Games such as Mikado, Memory, or Four Connects train mental abilities and playfully train hand and finger functions.

 

Combat freezing phenomenon

Parkinson’s patients develop progressively more severe movement disorders over time. The so-called ‘freezing phenomenon’ can occur – a sudden freezing of the movement. The affected person can then temporarily no longer move from the spot.

To counteract this phenomenon, you can give yourself loud commands such as ‘Now put your left leg forward’. Stepping over an object or tapping a light on the thigh can help release the blockage. However, the strategy to which a patient reacts varies significantly from person to person.

prevent falls

Since the mobility of those affected by Parkinson’s decreases, the steps are smaller, and the gait seems to be shuffling more, there is an increased risk of falling. To prevent falls as much as possible, consider the following tips  :

  • Move objects that you can easily trip over out of the way. This includes, for example, carpets and runners as well as cables.
  • Avoid slippery surfaces – in winter, for example, do not leave the house if it has just snowed.
  • If you feel unsteady on your feet, use a walking aid such as a cane or walker.
  • When walking, consciously pay attention to lifting your feet and avoid quick movements.
  • Wear shoes with a leather sole or rubber heel. On the other hand, you should avoid shoes with a continuous rubber sole, as they can easily get caught on carpets.

Train facial expressions

In Parkinson’s patients, facial expressions freeze more and more over time. As a result, those affected lose an essential communication tool – because certain feelings, such as joy or sadness, are primarily expressed through facial expressions. To keep your facial expressions as long as possible, you should train them regularly. The best way to do this is to stand in front of a mirror:

  • Repeat the vowels A, E, I, O, and U with exaggerated facial expressions.
  • Try to use your facial expressions to express moods such as happiness, sadness, anger, and surprise.
  • Alternately frown, puff out your cheeks, raise eyebrows, and stick out your tongue.

 

Actively combat speech disorders.

Around 90 per cent of all Parkinson’s patients develop speech disorders over time. These are caused by reduced mobility of the organs involved in speaking. However, long-term use of levodopa can also hurt talking.

The speech disorders make it more difficult to understand those affected. Your voice becomes quieter, and the pronunciation becomes unclear. Out of shame and fear of constant questioning, speaking is sometimes avoided as much as possible. However, this is the wrong way. To take action against speech disorders, suitable speech training should be started immediately after the diagnosis has been made known.

It is best to contact a speech therapist and have them show you suitable voice exercises. With some training, you can do the exercises yourself at home. In addition to such targeted voice exercises, you can quickly train your voice in everyday life:

  • Each day, read a short newspaper article aloud clearly.
  • sing out loud
  • Play oral town-country-flow.
  • Participate in discussions.

Driving with Parkinson’s – yes or no?

Whether you can still drive despite Parkinson’s depends on various factors. One of the decisive factors is the extent to which movement disorders have already occurred. In addition, certain medications can reduce the ability to concentrate or react. For more detailed information, please refer to the package insert for your medication.

Driving a car is usually not a problem at an early stage. In individual cases, however, the person concerned must constantly make a responsible decision himself – preferably after consulting the doctor treating him – whether he can still drive a vehicle.

 

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