If your parent has Parkinson’s disease, they may occasionally experience a symptom called “freezing.” Freezing is just what it sounds like—your parent is temporarily unable to move as though they are frozen in place. It’s a frustrating symptom and can cause your parent to fall. There are several strategies that may help your parent to avoid or stop an episode of freezing. Some of these strategies will work for certain people, but not for others. Try them and see which ones are effective for your parent.
Avoid Freezing Triggers
There are some things that can bring on a freezing episode. Many people with Parkinson’s freeze when they feel crowded or like they have less space. This can happen when they are in a group of people or when walking through a doorway that is narrow. It can also happen when a person is turning. While it’s probably not possible to avoid all narrow doorways, it may be possible to occasionally avoid crowded areas. As for turning, instead of pivoting, your parent might try walking in a circle until they are headed in the direction they want to go.
Count or Sing
Some people find that singing a song or counting during a freezing episode helps to break it. Dr. Blair Ford, Professor of Clinical Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center, suggests that creating external cues like counting and singing work because a person with Parkinson’s lacks the internal cues that help them to take the next step. Family caregivers and home care providers can sing or count along as a means of encouragement.
Move in a Different Direction
Sometimes taking a step backward or to the side can end a freezing episode. Rocking from side to side may also work. It may be wise for a family caregiver or home care provider to support the senior when they try this tactic to avoid a fall.
Aim the Next Step
Sometimes having a target to step toward can help. The senior can imagine a line on the floor that they need to step over or toward. Home care providers and family caregivers can help by reminding the senior to try this tactic. They might even draw an imaginary line with their foot or use a laser pointer aimed at the floor for the person to step toward.
If your parent has problems with freezing, it’s important to remain calm during the episode. Don’t rush your parent into moving and never push them. Wait for the episode to be over and assist with some of the techniques above.
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