OT for PD–February Meeting Recap

We welcomed Occupational Therapist Donna Jackson to our February 7 in-person meeting in Reston. Donna has worked as an OT for over 25 years, both in outpatient clinics and as a visiting home health therapist. She currently divides her week between home visits (three-days-a-week) and a clinic setting (two-days-a-week). Home health occupational therapy is covered through Medicare A, but you must be considered “homebound,” or needing assistance to go out to anywhere from your house.

Donna is LSVT-BIG certified and highly recommends the BIG program for people with Parkinson’s. It helps with both bradykinesia (slow movements) and hypokinesia (small movements). Because of the program’s time requirements, Donna cannot do the BIG program in a home setting. It needs to be done at an outpatient clinic for Medicare to cover.

As an occupational therapist, Donna helps people identify activities they once did well and now find difficult and challenging. She works with them to make adjustments, modifications, and adaptations so they can return to doing those activities. Since she is in people’s homes, she can also suggest environmental changes and adaptive devices that can help make those activities easier. She shared the handout, An Overview of How OT Can Help, from the Parkinson’s Foundation.

Specifics, Practicalities, and Suggestions from Donna in response to our questions:

  • Use a tub transfer bench to get in and out of the tub.
  • A small, light wrist-weight helps some people with tremors to eat (although she usually recommends people with tremor and/or dyskinesia talk with their doctors).
  • Stabilizing your forearms by resting them on top of the table often helps with writing and eating.
  • Stabilizing your elbows against your body also helps with writing and eating.
  • The more you use your hands and arms, the longer you’ll keep your strength and skills. Some ideas: Practice writing, picking up small objects, and holding something in your hand while picking up something else. Roll two small medicine balls around in the palm of one hand, then the other. Squeeze soft balls. Use TheraPutty. Do these hand and arm exercises while watching tv.
  • Use weighted handles for forks, spoons, and other utensils, as well as toothbrushes, pens, and pencils to help with difficulties caused by tremor and/or dyskinesia.
  • Jar openers can make getting those lids off easier.
  • Plate guards help keep food on your plate.
  • Try rocker knives to cut meat and sticky stuff on the bottom of your plate to hold it in place.
  • Grab bars are made that look like towel bars.

Donna led us through a series of hand, finger, and fine motor exercises. The 2-page handout she shared can be found here (along with other exercises). She also sent the exercises we did on this YouTube video link, 7 Helpful Parkinson’s Hand Exercises.

Donna’s Contact Information:

  • Donna Jackson, MS, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist
  • Functional Home Therapy; Specializing in Geriatric and Neurological Rehab
  • donnajackson@verizon.net / 703-403-5326

Additional Resources: Click on Aging in Place for a summary of our May 2022 meeting with additional resources shared with us by our guest speaker, Steve Gurney.

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