My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s just over four years ago although we’re told he’s probably had it for a decade. Freezing is the most noticeable feature of his Parkinson’s to us- I can tell whether he’s having a good day or a bad day depending on how much he hesitates when crossing the threshold of our house or coming to the door at his home. It’s like he suddenly becomes stuck and has to reboot. For my father it really affects his walking mostly although this freezing symptom for other people can also happen when thinking, speaking or doing a task like brushing their teeth.
It’s not really clear what causes freezing. When it affects movement it’s often triggered by some kind of break- like a change in flooring (a rug for example) or at a doorway or in a crowded area.
Parkinson’s UK have a good sheet on called “Freezing in Parkinson’s”, which can be downloaded here: www.parkinsons.org.uk
In terms of practical things that my father has found useful there is a handful:
- An occupational therapist came to my father’s house and watched as he moved around the house. She advised about moving some of the furniture around to create fewer obstacles which can trigger the freezing. She also recommended an exercise programme called BIG which recommends big movements to get you started again.
- Some people find that a visual trigger in front of them helps keep the movement more fluent and reduces freezing. There are a few versions of things he’s tried. Coming soon is a device called Path Finder, developed by a designer who has a father with Parkinson's it fixes to your shoes and projects a laser beam in front of each foot. He’s got a walking stick which has a laser beam which shines each time the walking stick hits the ground. www.attainability.co.uk/lasercane-walking-stick.
- Making sure all the Parkinson’s medications are taken at the right time is key. Pill management is very important as the effectiveness of each dose wears off. Pill boxes like the Liberty Quattro Pill Case with medicines organised for the week can be helpful. Devices such as the Tab Timer Pill Reminder to remind you to take the pills are also effective or a watch version like Vibralite Mini Watch Reminder. The pill box and cup is useful for the first dose of the day as it has a carafe and pill box together so you spill water if you knock it in the night.
- The Alexander Technique has worked really well for my father. By working on his posture and keeping his eyes high up using peripheral vision to watch where he’s walking, he has found that the visual disturbances have less impact and therefore he has less freezing. You can read more about it here www.alexandertechnique.co.uk.
- Metronomes help some people. Try downloading one on a phone or iPod.