Living with Parkinson’s disease or being a carer can be physically and mentally challenging. Finding time to practice self-care can help a person cope with the day-to-day challenges that Parkinson’s disease brings.

Self-care is any practice that relieves stress and encourages a healthy body and mind. It is important that a person with Parkinson’s disease prioritizes self-care for their physical and mental health.

A 2020 article on self-care and Parkinson’s disease defines self-care as “the practice of activities that individuals initiate and perform on their own behalf in maintaining life, health and well-being.”

In this article, we discuss some ways a person living with or caring for an individual with Parkinson’s disease can practice self-care.

An older male spreading seeds in a garden. Gardening is a self care activity for people with Parkinson's disease.Share on Pinterest
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Research suggests that exercise has a positive impact on both motor and nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Exercise may help prevent or slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease symptoms, as well as help a person to manage them. It can also improve overall strength and brain health.

There are core elements that people with Parkinson’s disease should include in their exercise regimen, including:

  • Aerobic: Any exercise that raises the heart rate, such as brisk walking.
  • Strength: Exercises that improve strength, such as weight training.
  • Balance: Practices such as tai chi can help people improve their balance.
  • Stretching: Practices that improve flexibility, such as stretching exercises, yoga, or pilates.

There is no one specific form of exercise most beneficial to people with Parkinson’s disease. People should choose a type of exercise they enjoy and that helps with their symptoms.

A person should always consult a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise regimen.

Read more about the benefits of exercise for Parkinson’s disease here.

Parkinson’s disease can lead to social and communicative changes that may make socializing more difficult.

These include facial masking and dysarthria. It can also be difficult for a person with Parkinson’s disease to recognize the verbal and nonverbal emotional cues of others. This can lead to people feeling isolated and less eager to socialize.

However, research suggests that strong social ties are crucial for brain health. Spending time with others can stimulate attention and memory, strengthen neural networks, and improve mood.

It is, therefore, important for people with Parkinson’s disease to take part in social activities. People may find it easier to do so with people they feel at ease with or by joining clubs and societies with others with the condition.

Read more about the health benefits of socializing here.

Research suggests that healthy eating has many health benefits and can positively impact a person’s physical and mental well-being.

Studies also show that a healthy diet — including foods such as fresh vegetables, olive oil, nuts and seeds, and coconut oil — can slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Eating a balanced diet can also ease some symptoms.

Some tips for a healthy, balanced diet for people with Parkinson’s disease include:

  • Eating a variety of food groups: Such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, and legumes.
  • Increasing calcium and vitamin D intake: Including low-fat dairy products, dark green vegetables, calcium-rich bread and cereals, and fatty fish.
  • Staying hydrated: A person should drink at least six to eight cups of water or noncaffeinated fluids every day.
  • Eating fiber-rich foods: Including whole grain bread and cereals, bran, oatmeal, beans, corn, peas, carrots, bananas, and prunes.

People should also limit their intake of sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.

Read more about diet and Parkinson’s disease here.

A hobby is a great way for a person with Parkinson’s disease to practice self-care and manage stress. It can help to boost confidence and improve a person’s overall quality of life.

Whether alone or as part of a group, it is important that a person chooses an activity they find both enjoyable and meaningful.

Hobbies that a person with Parkinson’s disease can try include:

Wellness activities such as yoga and meditation are other ways people with Parkinson’s disease can practice self-care.

The National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health suggests that practicing yoga can improve several aspects of wellness, including stress management, emotional health, and sleep. Meditation, also known as mindfulness, can also calm the mind and enhance overall well-being.

A 2021 mixed-treatment comparison analysis suggests that yoga and walking are important options for increasing mobility and functional balance in people with Parkinson’s disease.

The study further states that yoga may be particularly effective for decreasing depressive symptoms and cognitive impairment and improving daily activities while living with the condition. A potential optimal level would be two 60-minute yoga sessions a week to enhance motor ability.

A 2021 survey of 5,000 patients with Parkinson’s disease found that mindfulness might improve symptom severity, with the strongest effects seen on depression and anxiety.

Read more about the different types of meditation here.

A person can live with Parkinson’s disease and find that they manage their symptoms well without any help. However, as Parkinson’s disease progresses, a person may find they need assistance with everyday activities.

An occupational therapist can help people to retain their independence in several ways, including:

  • providing help and training on new ways to carry out daily activities
  • recommending equipment and aids to help a person at home or in the workplace
  • giving advice on getting out and about
  • helping a person find ways to continue with their hobbies

Massage therapy can have beneficial effects on both motor and nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

A recent study concluded that, in most cases, massage therapy can:

The more a person knows about their condition, the more empowered they may feel to play an active role in their care and managing their symptoms.

A person should speak with a healthcare professional for a detailed analysis of their condition and an outline of how their symptoms may progress.

Healthcare professionals may also be able to recommend various charities and organizations that can provide a person with accurate and detailed knowledge about Parkinson’s.

Relevant organizations include:

Learn more about Parkinson’s disease here.

It is important that people with Parkinson’s disease have a good support network. A person may wish to join a support group to connect with others with the condition.

People can speak with their healthcare professionals to find out about support groups that are available. They can also search for support groups using the search tool on the APDA website.

It is also important for carers of people with Parkinson’s disease to maintain their physical and mental health.

Self-care ideas for carers include:

  • eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • doing regular exercise
  • having an adequate amount of sleep
  • relieving stress — by having a hot bath, reading, taking a walk, meditation
  • setting limits and boundaries and asking for help when necessary
  • finding a support group
  • socializing
  • scheduling breaks from caregiving

There are many ways a person with Parkinson’s disease can manage their symptoms and maintain a good quality of life.

Practicing self-care is important for a person with Parkinson’s disease as it can have a beneficial impact on symptoms and may also help a person cope better with the day-to-day challenges of the condition.

Self-care activities can help a person have a good quality of life and may keep them in good mental and physical health.