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Parkinson’s Disease – Treatments for Life Enrichment

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is very common among adults over the age of 65. The symptoms, motor and nonmotor, decrease the quality of life of these individuals. As stated by Stegemöller (2018), “The motor symptoms are the most well-known symptoms of PD. These include tremor, bradykinesia (slow movement), rigidity, postural instability, and gait disturbance. However, there are many additional motor and nonmotor symptoms, such as swallow impairment, speech impairment, cognitive impairment, depression, and autonomic dysfunction that have repeatedly been shown to have a tremendous impact on quality of life (QOL).” I want to highlight a few treatments for Parkinson’s that are effective as well as fun!

Music therapy is beneficial in treating the voice and swallowing difficulties caused by PD. Singing helps strengthen the voice and respiratory system, and also the muscles used to swallow. Singing involves respiratory control, as one changes rhythm and pitch. Not only does music therapy help with the symptoms of PD, but it is a great socialization opportunity. Singing in choirs is one of my favorite past times!

Dance for PD® classes have taken off, and you can find them in the DC Metro area (see our Events page!). “Dance for PD®, founded in 2001, offers specialized dance classes to people with Parkinson’s, their families, friends and care partners in eight locations around New York City and through our network of affiliates in more than 100 communities in 20 countries around the world. Dance for PD classes allow people with Parkinson’s to experience the joys and benefits of dance while creatively addressing symptom-specific concerns related to balance, cognition, motor skill, depression and physical confidence” ( Individuals with PD and whoever wants to join them can use dance as a way to keep their body moving and help lessen their symptoms, all the while expressing themselves and having fun!

Who knew that rock climbing could be used to help people with PD? Well it can! Rock climbing helps improve strength, muscle control, and mobility. The activity is closely monitored by instructors and encourages self-confidence. Everything is indoors and equipment is provided. Individuals with PD reach heights (literally) they never knew were possible! The climbing center in our area is in Alexandria, VA.

Boxing is another method one wouldn’t necessarily think of when treating PD. Rock Steady Boxing, which holds their classes at a gym in Gaithersburg, MD, conducts assessments to determine which level an individual is on, then places them so that they can get the most out of the experience. The boxing programs help with QOL; as they do their intense workout, it helps their sense of self-worth.

I want to note a resource from the Parkinson’s Foundation called the Aware in Care Kit. This campaign was started in 2011 to help people with PD who go to the hospital be prepared, since taking their medications on time is crucial, and hospital staff may not be aware. For more information, click here.

Parkinson’s Disease has impacted so many lives, but there are also so many positive ways to counteract it and improve QOL as one lives with PD. There are those mentioned here, and any of our care managers could have a conversation with you about the many ways to help you and your loved ones as your travel this journey. Call us at 301-593-5285 or email to start the conversation!
—Liz Zarate, MS