Living with Parkinson’s: Daily Tips and Strategies

Research has shown that certain lifestyle modifications can help better control Parkinson’s symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. A focus on diet modification and exercise can keep you healthier for longer, avoid secondary symptoms of Parkinson’s, improve mobility and balance, and enhance the overall quality of life. Here are tips for living with Parkinson’s: Daily Tips and Strategies.

Importance of Maintaining Quality of Life

The incidence of Parkinson’s disease is rising, with nearly 90,000 people a year being newly diagnosed with the disease. It is projected that more than 1.2 million people will be living with Parkinson’s by 2030. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that causes unintended and uncontrolled movement, such as shaking, freezing, and stiffness, slowing of movement. In addition to motor symptoms, there are also non-motor symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, which include anxiety and depression, cognitive problems, speech and swallowing problems, low blood pressure, and constipation to name just a few. Symptoms tend to start slowly and gradually. Over time, motor and non-motor symptoms can progress and affect a person’s quality of life. It is extra important to work on identifying and treating symptoms to improve a patient’s quality of life.

Establishing a Routine

One of the key ways to manage Parkinson’s motor and non-motor symptoms is by establishing a day-to-day routine. By establishing a daily routine, medication timing and appointments can be easily kept track of. Having a routine can provide stability and predictability in a disease that brings unpredictability and frequent changes to both motor and non-motor symptoms. Here is a tip for adjusting your daily activities to maintain a high quality of life and reduce anxiety and stress. Stiffness and slowed movement in the morning can make getting out of the door on time difficult. Make sure to allow for extra time in the morning for eating, dressing, and getting ready to reduce morning stress. 

Exercise and Physical Activity – book an appointment with Freedom 

Maintaining physical activity with Parkinson’s disease is crucial. Exercise has been shown to prevent/slow disease progression, help manage symptoms, and avoid isolation. Studies have shown that exercise helps to keep brain cells healthy. Strength training, balance retraining, flexibility, and movement patterning exercises allow a patient to remain mobile and independent throughout the disease progression. There are many Parkinson’s programs available, depending on what you are interested in. Some programs include Dance for PD, and Rock Steady Boxing, along with many others designed to help Parkinson’s patients work on the skills they have the most difficulty with. Group classes can create camaraderie and support. There are also Parkinson’s certified therapists who can work one-on-one with you to create specific exercise programs designed to work on skills you may have specific difficulties with. This can include, getting in and out of the car, feeding, grooming, stair or curb negotiation, and movement. 

Diet and Nutrition

Studies have found that nutrition can make a difference in disease progression of Parkinson’s disease. There is no magic diet, but a diet based on whole-food and plant-based has brain benefits. In addition to the regular whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and protein-rich foods everyone should be consuming, also consider nuts, olive oil, fish, and eggs for their beneficial fats. It has been found that nuts can help promote brain health, berries are high in antioxidants, and fish and dark leafy green vegetables can provide anti-inflammatory effects in the brain. Protein-rich foods (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) can interfere with the absorption of PD medications, so make sure to talk with your Neurologist about the timing of medication and meals. It is also important to get enough water intake to help keep your system moving. Parkinson’s disease slows the whole body down including your GI system.

Medication Management

There are quite a few medications that are used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Levodopa is the most commonly prescribed medication for those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease. Levodopa is a natural chemical that passes into the brain and converts into dopamine. With Parkinson’s disease, dopamine levels progressively decrease within the brain for reasons still unknown. Medication can help the body resupply the body with dopamine to help with movement, walking, and tremors. Timing medications so they are taken at the same time each day can help to remember them. Certain Parkinson’s disease medications close to a protein-rich meal can interfere with the absorption of the drug. Speak with your doctor about medication timing.

Home Safety Modifications

Parkinson’s disease symptoms impact daily life and as the disease progresses, modifications may need to be put in place to keep you safe. With all who suffer from balance or mobility issues, these are a few general tips to keep you safe and independent in your home. 

  • Remove clutter to decrease the risk of trips and falls 
  • Wear shoes/substantial slippers within the home
  • Keep the home well-lit, even at night (use a night light)
  • Install grab bars in the bathroom to help with showering and toileting
  • Add a shower bench 
  • Make sure to use handrails on stairs
  • Use electric tools only if steady enough
  • Do not climb ladders or step stools


Emotional and Mental Wellbeing

There are emotional and mental changes that occur with Parkinson’s disease. Depression, anxiety, stress, apathy, anger, sadness, and denial are common. These changes can occur due to chemical changes in the brain.  Up to 50% of people living with Parkinson’s disease are affected by depression or anxiety. In addition to medications to help with some of these symptoms, finding a therapist who you can talk with can be helpful. Improve sleep, eat well, exercise frequently, and make time to relax to help manage your mental health.

Support Systems 

It is also important to find and join a Parkinson’s support group. There are many support groups located throughout many cities. Meeting and nurturing relationships with others diagnosed with Parkinson’s can help with the physical, emotional, and mental challenges of the disease. Find a group that interests you – some groups are active and do exercise together, others meet for coffee. Building relationships can help people not feel alone. Many of these groups also have caregiver support groups.

While there is currently no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are many different treatments available to help maintain a person’s quality of life and relieve symptoms. Medications, deep brain stimulation, lifestyle adjustments, and supportive therapies, like diet, exercise, physical, occupational, and speech therapy all can help keep the quality of life high and the person living a more independent lifestyle. If you are not certain where to begin, check out organizations like or for more information. If you are currently living with Parkinson’s disease and need a physical therapist who specializes in the treatment of PD, reach out to us to set up your appointment today.

Physical Therapist at Freedom Physical Therapy Services
Molly Rittberg received her master’s degree in Physical Therapy in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and went on to receive her doctorate from Rosalind Franklin University (North Chicago) in 2009. She has since worked in an outpatient orthopedic practice where she worked with patients of all ages, injuries and disabilities. She has a wide variety of experiences including knee, ankle, foot and shoulder injuries, post-operative conditions, spinal rehabilitation and peripheral neuropathies.