Physical therapy can do seniors with Parkinson’s disease a world of good, slowing the decline that these patients experience. The physical challenges that those with the disease face–slow movement, hesitation, balance issues, rigidity, and resting tremors–can severely impact their ability to complete everyday functions. A physical therapist should be able to design an exercise plan that can enable Parkinson’s patients to overcome these problems and achieve maximum mobility.
In addition to improving physical abilities, a physical therapist can also take a look at the senior’s home environment for potential safety problems and usability issues. Maybe there are throw rugs that should be removed, or grab bars in strategic places in the bathroom would be helpful. They can also give advice on what exercise is best given a senior’s particular medication, so that they can get the most benefit from their treatment. They will also send the senior home with a plan to continue treatment outside of the therapy setting.
One of the greatest benefits of physical therapy is that it can provide help with walking, which is a particular challenge for Parkinson’s patients. A good therapist will know how to overcome the “freezing” reaction that many patients experience. They may use an auditory cue, such as a ticking metronome, to prompt the patient to take steps, or visual reminders on the floor may help them remember how to walk in such a way that the chance for a fall is reduced.
Some physical therapists may incorporate tai chi, yoga, or pilates and can address rigidity and balance problems, as well as build strength. They can also help Parkinson’s patients determine whether a cane, a Rollator (a walker with wheels), or a similar device would be a good thing to obtain.
Consider physical therapists with BIG certification. These therapists have been trained to work specifically with Parkinson’s patients.
The recommendation used to be that Parkinson’s patients wait until the later stages of the disease to start physical therapy, but this is no longer the case. Instead, it is advised that patients start treatment as soon as possible, as this can have benefit before a major event like an injury or another type of decline. By building up these habits of physical activity now, they may be much better off as the disease progresses. If a loved one has Parkinson’s disease and there isn’t currently a physical therapist on their treatment team, take some steps to bring one aboard.