Caregiver Corner: Finding an Occupational Therapist for Your Loved One… and You!

It is difficult to provide broad, yet helpful occupational therapy tips for Parkinson’s disease (PD). As the saying goes, “When you have met one person with Parkinson’s disease, you have met one person with Parkinson’s disease.” The best tip I can give you as an occupational therapist is to find and regularly see an occupational therapist in your area who specializes in skilled therapy treatment for people with Parkinson’s.  

As a caregiver, you may have to help your loved one find an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists not only supply specific tactics for managing your loved one’s Parkinson’s, but can guide your whole family through the process with professional and caring skill. Locating an occupational therapist who provides specialized, skilled therapy treatments to individuals with Parkinson’s will open up your world as a caregiver. These therapists can alleviate care partners’ stress and worry, as well as improve quality of life for loved ones. It may benefit you even further to find a therapist who is trained in LSVT BIG® and/or Parkinson Wellness Recovery, PWR!® programs, which focus on addressing the unique movement challenges in Parkinson’s disease.

When you first meet an occupational therapist, make sure you and your partner connect well and feel comfortable working with him or her long term. Though you may need to meet multiple therapists before you find the one with whom you feel the most connected and at ease, the peace of mind will be well worth it. Find an occupational therapist who will not only get along well with your loved one, but also all others who provide care and support to the person with PD. This therapist will get to know the entire family and support system, and be well equipped and best able to provide ongoing guidance as your loved one experiences changes in his or her Parkinson’s disease, as well as overall health condition.  

By regularly seeing an integrated occupational therapist, he or she will be able to note early, subtle changes in PD symptoms. The sooner these concerns are addressed, the easier they can be resolved or treated. Having an occupational therapist on a Parkinson’s care team can help people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones reap great rewards for years to come.

Occupational therapists address Parkinson’s symptom management in areas such as:

  • Self-care
  • Driving
  • Coordination
  • Home safety evaluations
  • Fall recovery and prevention
  • Functional mobility
  • Home and medication management
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Handwriting legibility
  • Leisure participation
  • Sleep performance
  • Cognition
  • Safety

The benefits of an expert care team in Parkinson’s are well established. A speech-language pathologist and physical therapist can help you address additional issues that can arise over time. Your team will guide you and your loved one through Parkinson’s in the best way possible.

To find local LSVT BIG® certified occupational and physical therapists and LSVT LOUD® certified speech-language pathologists visit www.lsvtglobal.com. For PWR!® certified therapists visit www.pwr4life.org.

Don’t know where to start on your search for an occupational therapist or want help creating a therapist team? Call the free Parkinson's Foundation Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636) or search our website to find a list of therapists near you.

Charissa Richter, MOTR, and Jana Underhill work with the Northern Colorado Therapy Services, Ft. Collins, CO.

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Caregiver Corner
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