Dexterity with Parkinson’s
Saturday, 9th September 2017

Dexterity problems can include fumbling for notes, change, and credit cards at checkout counters. Staying at home is a great temptation when your symptoms are showing, but it only deprives you and your spouse or friends of the pleasure of each other’s company. And it isolates you. The truth is that few people will even notice your symptoms. A bad tremor while making change is taken for a momentary rattling. Knocking over a glass at dinner? Spilled soup? It happens to everyone.

How can I minimise problems such as fumbling for notes, change, and credit cards at checkout counters?

Some Parkinson’s patients embark on an endless search for the perfect wallet, but the issue is not limited to money. Car keys, theatre programs, newspapers, a glass of wine, buttons on a shirt or a plate of food at a buffet — worse yet, both a glass and a plate. Everyone drops things. It just happens more frequently with Parkinson’s patients, who carry around this baggage of “disease” that seems to get a little heavier with each mishap.

Compensatory strategies can be helpful: A large wallet for easy access, counting change ahead of time, not using change, asking a friend to hold your drink while you steady a plate, wearing shirts without buttons etc. When you encounter a new problem, think about the best way to handle it the next time. And remember, dropping change is a symptom of your disease, not a reflection on your character. The more you are out and about, the more people will see you, and visibility means greater acceptance from others as well as increased confidence.

Driving with Parkinson’s

Concerns about driving involve several issues: physical ability, legal permission, safety, the importance of independence. You will likely be able to drive safely and legally for several years after a Parkinson’s diagnosis, depending on your age and general physical condition. However, Parkinson’s disease may eventually affect reaction time, ability to handle multiple tasks at once and vision.

No one wants to be told they can no longer drive, but that decision may be in the best interest of you and your loved ones at some point. A good way to gauge whether you should be behind the wheel is to ask yourself: If a loved one were my passenger, would I be risking that person’s safety? Also, be aware of others’ reactions. If your spouse or child has commented on your driving ability or is reluctant to be your passenger, carefully consider their concerns. Your doctor may be able to arrange a formal driving evaluation, which gives an objective perspective on your abilities.

If you do decide to hand over your keys, look for public transportation options or ask family and friends to bring you to activities and events. Socialisation and staying active help manage Parkinson’s symptoms. You don’t have to stay home once you are no longer driving.