Interview with an Occupational Therapist – What You Need to Know

Interview Conducted by: Valeria Gary, M.A., CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist, Certified in LSVT-LOUD and SpeakOUT!

Interviewee: Celina Parkman, MS, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist, Kennestone Outpatient Neuro Rehabilitation


Why would I need to see an occupational therapist if I already have a physical therapist?

While a physical therapist works with strength and mobility, an occupational therapist works on anything that occupies your time. Many people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) report that it takes longer to do and/or is more difficult to do their daily activities (i.e. bathing, dressing, buttoning, feeding, writing checks, driving). People with PD frequently report that they are more tired after getting ready for their day. An occupational therapist can work with you on any activity to either improve your skills or to figure out how to make it easier to keep you independent as long as possible.


What are signs that I might benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation?

If you are having difficulty with any of your daily activities (i.e. buttoning, dressing, bathing, feeding yourself, laundry, carrying groceries), you may benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation. Falls and fatigue with daily activities are also signs you may benefit from an evaluation.


I avoid morning appointments because it takes me a very long time to get dressed and out of the house. How can you help me with that?

Occupational therapists can help you improve your ability to speed up getting ready in the morning when it is difficult. Depending on your evaluation results, you may need stretches, exercises or learn more efficient ways to get ready.


My family is concerned about my driving? How can I show them that I am still safe to drive?

Driving with PD should always be a conversation between your entire team, and YOU are the main team member. Occupational therapists want to keep you on the road as long as possible. If your family members or you are worried about your safety, you can request a prescription from your doctor for an occupational therapy evaluation. Your occupational therapist will evaluate the skills needed for safe driving, such as visual perception (how your brain interprets what you see), eye coordination, thinking skills, strength and your ability to get in and out of buildings and the car safely. Sometimes, patients will only need to stop driving at night or on the highways to stay independent with driving. The goal is to allow you to drive as many places as possible, but sometimes driving restrictions (i.e. no night driving) are needed to keep you safe.


What are some new hobbies that I can consider given my hand tremors?

Research shows that learning new skills is a great way to keep your thinking skills strong! Hand tremors are tricky, and your occupational therapist can give you strategies to manage tremors or adapt the activity, so you can continue your hobbies independently. For example, some people continue playing in their Bridge clubs with simple modifications, such as a card holder, and people who find traditional crocheting difficult may be able to use a crochet loom. However, some hobbies become more difficult or impossible to do because of tremors. First, you must determine your interests (i.e. reading, crafting, outdoor activities). There are places that offer classes to learn new things. For example, Kennesaw State University has the program, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), with opportunities for education, hobbies and social interaction for adults 50+. Also, the Art Station at Big Shanty has classes for adults with and without disabilities. Your local craft stores may also have classes. Looking online is a great place to find resources near you.


I want to be able to sign my name more clearly. What are some ways that you can help with that?

Your occupational therapist will evaluate various skills needed for handwriting. Sometimes with PD, strategies are needed to improve handwriting, such as wrist weights or weighted pens. However, there are multiple reasons that handwriting is affected by Parkinson’s, so an evaluation by your occupational therapist can lead you in the right direction.

For more information about Occupational Therapy and to find a therapist near you, please talk to your neurologist or movement disorder specialist.


2 responses on Interview with an Occupational Therapist – What You Need to Know

  1. Hi Jane! PD Gladiators is based in metro Atlanta but I do see that there is a local organization that provides fitness programs and local support services for PwP’s in the Cincinnati area: I hope this helps and thank you for your support!

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