Safety Instructions for Parkinson’s Patients

Driving Instructions for Parkinson’s Patients

  • Driving promotes an individual’s personal freedom, control, and independence. Rigidity, sudden onset of episodes of freezing, and tremors in Parkinson’s patients can impair their ability for safe driving and increase risk for accidents.
  • Slowed thought process in Parkinson’s patients can impair their ability to react quickly to road hazards, thus impairing quick application of brakes, timely turning of wheel, and slamming on the gas pedal as needed. Also, medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease can induce side-effects such as, dizziness, blurred vision, and confusion.
  • All these factors contribute to compromised safety of the Parkinson’s individual, other passengers in the car, and the general public traveling on the road.  So, limiting driving and seeking caregiver assistance for rides or depending on public transport could be safer options for Parkinson’s patients.
  • In the event of Parkinson’s patients resorting to driving, observing the following measures can improve the safety and reduce a collision risk.
  1. Observe compliance with medications for control of Parkinson’s disease, as ordered.
  2. Avoid driving in a fatigued state, especially in the late night hours, as blurred vision and confusion could be a common side-effects of medications taken for management of Parkinson’s disease.
  3. Avoid driving during the rush hour traffic, as the rigidity, sudden onset of episodes of freezing, tremors, and slowed thought process in Parkinson’s patients make wheel control and quicker response to traffic alerts difficult.
  4. Avoid all the distractions, such as, radio, talking over the phone, discussions with co-passengers, and drinking/eating, while driving. Focusing on the road and alerts can help improve safety and reduce the risk for collision.
  5. Highways and tollways can have higher speed limits to follow and offer little time to react in emergency situations. Taking sideroads and avoiding highways & tollways can also contribute to improved safety with driving.
  6. Keeping to the routinely taken familiar routes and using a GPS on nonfamiliar routes can help Parkinson’s patients prepare better for the oncoming road hazards, alerts, and turns. This can promote safety with driving for Parkinson’s patients.
  7. Having updates on weather for the driving route can help avoid driving in unfavorable weather conditions or prepare better for the hazards to come.
  8. Seek regular updates on your driving abilities from your doctor and therapist. Respect their input and be prepared to give up on driving, if recommended. Do not be compelled to drive, as it is just a habit hard to give up.

Measures to Promote Safe Swallow in Parkinson’s Patients

  • Stiffness and rigidity of muscles involving the face and jaw in Parkinson’s patients could progressively lead to difficulties with chewing and safe swallowing.
  • Ability to chew is the major stimulus for saliva production.
  • Impaired safe swallowing function can lead to severe complications such as, choking and aspiration pneumonia.
  • Observing compliance with the following measures can help with promoting safe swallow in Parkinson’s patients.
  1. Sit straight up during eating and drinking.
  2. Do not rush while eating. Caregivers should provide frequent reminders and encouragement regarding allowing enough time to eat and not rushing through the process, which can contribute to reduced risk of choking and complications.
  3. Using smaller size spoons can reduce the volume of food taken in at a time, which can help prevent choking. Caregivers helping to cut the meat into smaller pieces before the patient starts to eat can help reduce the effort for the patient and promote the ease. Using ground meat could be a safer option.
  4. Encourage the patient to chew thoroughly and do not add any more food into the mouth until all the food from previous bite is completely swallowed.
  5. Difficulty with chewing in Parkinson’s patients can lead to reduced saliva production and consequently result in dry mouth, which can make the swallowing even more difficult.
  6. Practicing double swallow can help swallow the food completely and prevent accumulation of any residual in the mouth, thus helping to avoid choking.
  7. Taking small sips of water in between the bites can help swallow the food down the throat easily. Do not consume too much of water, as it can fill the stomach up and compromise the volume of food consumed on a meal.
  8. Difficulty with chewing and swallowing could lead to the individual losing interest in food and consequently result in reduced nutrition intake. Trying smaller and multiple meals against three large meals could be a better alternative to preserve the interest in food and maintain the recommended calorie intake. This measure can reduce the effort of eating and prevent fatigue in Parkinson’s patients.
  9. Parkinson’s patients with difficulty chewing must seek speech therapy consult for recommendations on safe swallow. Observe compliance with any exercises recommended to strengthen the muscles helping for safe swallow.
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