Blog Post 2018

Family Activities for People with Parkinson’s

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By VHA
Family pose together for a picture in front of a tourist location

If someone you love has Parkinson’s Disease, tremors, changed motor skills, mobility challenges and cognitive impairment can make it difficult to do the activities they’ve always enjoyed. This can be frustrating for not only your loved one, but also for family members that miss doing things together.

As Parkinson’s progresses, it’s so important to encourage your loved one’s physical, mental and social activity to improve their quality of life and manage symptoms. Helping to build and maintain relationships can also prevent feelings of depression and isolation. With a few adjustments, there are lots of activities you can enjoy together. Here are some ideas for family fun:

  • Stay active. Exercise can not only slow the progression of the disease but is also a great way to motivate each other and get in some family time. Bike, walk, or take a Tai chi, yoga, or non-contact boxing class together to help reduce symptoms. Activities that make you change your speed, direction or movement are the most beneficial for people with Parkinson’s disease. Before trying something new just be sure to talk to a doctor.
  • Play games. Playing at home together can be a fun and easy way to connect. Multi-player card games like rummy, UNO or hearts will keep minds sharp and offer social interaction. If your loved one is struggling to hold and handle the cards, there are assistive devices that can help. Video games like Nintendo Wii that use motion-detection controllers instead of fine motor skills are interactive, challenging and good exercise.
  • Help others. Volunteering with an organization you’re all passionate about will make the whole family feel good. It can also help your loved one meet new people and feel more productive and valued. There are lots of volunteer opportunities like visiting with seniors, playing with shelter animals or helping at the food bank depending on your loved one’s abilities. It may be especially fulfilling to get involved with the Parkinson’s community.
  • Dance and sing. For people with Parkinson’s, singing can help reduce deterioration of their vocal cords, strengthen face muscles and the muscles used to swallow food. Dancing to music can increase balance and coordination, help with freezing episodes and improve mood. Shaking may also lessen when focused on rhythm and music. Consider joining a drum circle, going dancing or trying karaoke to add more music to your lives.
  • Create. The medication that helps Parkinson’s symptoms has also been shown to increase creativity. Go with this and create together! Photography, jewelry-making, ceramics and painting can all be very therapeutic. If your loved one’s symptoms are making some activities hard, there are techniques and adaptive tools to help.
  • Cook. Preparing meals is a very calming activity that can bring generations together. While cooking can be challenging, there are lots of ways to help you and your loved one make healthy meals as a team. Invest in lightweight pots, pans and adaptive utensils, put everything you need within arm’s reach and use a chair to make your loved one more comfortable. Multi-tasking can be hard for people with Parkinson’s, so look for one pot recipes or meals that require fewer ingredients and prep time.

Reading or listening to podcasts, a drive-in movie, campfire sing-along, sporting event or a picnic dinner are just a few more ideas that may work for your whole gang. Playing, moving and laughing together as a family will ensure your loved one feels cared for and supported and make your time together fun for everyone.