Maximize the Holiday Experience for Loved Ones with Parkinson's Disease

Your house is buzzing with holiday spirit as family members come together for warm food and gift exchanges. If there are little ones running around, your home can easily morph into a tiny circus- a circus you are grateful for.

'Tis the season to be surrounded by loved ones, share food, and talk each other's ears off. For many of us, moments like this feel easy and comforting. For some individuals, particularly those with Parkinson's disease, this can be a challenge.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that primarily affects motor movement and eventually cognition. Daily movements we rely on, like walking, talking, and eating, become increasingly difficult. This can make crowded or loud environments overwhelming, which might lead to feelings of isolation.

Here are five tips to make sure your loved one with Parkinson's disease is set up for success over the holidays (and for years to come!)

1. If you are going to a restaurant, pick a time that is off-peak hours.

Restaurants are an easy way to avoid the hassle of cooking and cleaning, but they can also be a source of distraction for loved ones with Parkinson's. One of the prominent features of Parkinson's disease is difficulty with speaking up- their voices become quieter and their speech becomes rushed. When you go to a restaurant early, say around 4:00 pm, you give your loved one a quieter environment to be heard. Not only that, but you're more likely to have minimal waiting time, and who doesn't love that?!

2. Consider seating arrangements.

Restaurant or not, ensuring your loved one is seated away from noisy distractions and close to caregivers ready to assist will reduce stress. Make sure you or another family member who is familiar with your loved one's needs is sitting nearby to help with memory and communication needs. While it may be tempting to place your family member next to the young grandchildren, this can result in communication breakdowns and overstimulation.

3. Set up a quiet space.

Whether you are having people over at your place or you are going to aunt Betty's, set aside time to find a designated quiet room. This will give your loved one a safe space to reduce any anxiety that can occur when there is too much going on around them. Allow some space, but make sure your loved one is not becoming isolated. Sometimes giving this person 10 minutes to recharge can make a big difference.

4. Use successful communication strategies.

Memory impairments, delayed word processing, rushed speech, and reduced vocal loudness are features that can be observed in someone with Parkinson's disease. This results in difficulty with communication. There are several simple steps you and your family members can take to improve successful communication:

Sit or stand in front of them and make eye-contact when addressing them.

Use their name or familiar term of endearment when speaking to them.

Speak slowly in a relaxed tone.

Allow your loved one time to process. If he/she takes longer than their norm to respond, try to prompt or encourage them by re-wording your last thought in a simpler way.

The less distracting the environment, the more successful the communication! Make sure the T.V. is off and others aren't speaking over you when you begin talking with your loved one.

5. Practical gift giving.

Ask loved ones to provide gifts that are meaningful and practical to someone with Parkinson's disease. Examples include photo albums, comfortable clothing that is easy to remove, audio recordings of their favorite music, and videos they may enjoy. If you are giving food, make sure it is food that is easy for the person with Parkinson's to chew and swallow. If you are working with a speech-language pathologist, discuss appropriate food options and create a list to send out to family members.

What are some other tips you have based off your experience? Comment below to share with the community!

From my family to yours,

Happy holidays!

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