Living Well with Parkinson’s Disease: Part 3

Living Well with Parkinson’s Disease: Part 3

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD each year and the incidence of Parkinson’s disease increases with age.

In this mini-series, Allied Services Speech Language Pathologist, Nicole Pelosi, looks at aspects of communication that can be affected by PD and offers tips that can supplement speech therapy to improve quality of life for people living with PD.

Swallowing Strategies

People with Parkinson’s Disease may also suffer from swallowing difficulty, also known as dysphagia. Some signs of dysphagia include coughing or throat clearing while eating or drinking, pain when swallowing, difficulty swallowing food or drinks, complaints of food getting ‘stuck’, or weight loss. Dysphagia can also affect the quality of life in a person with PD as they may avoid eating around others or attending gatherings where food and drinks are involved. They may even avoid food and drinks all together causing malnutrition and dehydration.

Early identification and intervention of dysphagia in PD is very important. This is because aspiration pneumonia resulting from dysphagia is the leading cause of death in PD. A speech-language pathologist is trained in the assessment and treatment of dysphagia. Treatment may include different strategies, positioning changes, exercises, diet modifications, or diet changes. It is important to note that what is beneficial and works for one person, may not be beneficial for another person. It is important to seek help from a physician or trained speech-language pathologist for any concerns regarding swallowing difficulty.

Swallowing strategies include:

  1. Small bites of food and small sips of liquid
  2. Take 1 bite/sip at a time – make sure you swallow everything before putting in more
  3. Sit upright in a chair
  4. Alternating food and drink to eliminate residual
  5. Fatigue – if fatigue is an issue modifying a diet may be helpful. For example, instead of eating 3 meals a day, eating 5 smaller meals a day may be beneficial.

Learn more about treatment options for Parkinson’s disease at Allied Services.

About the Author: Nicole Pelosi, MS, CCC/SLP works with patients at Allied Services in outpatient, inpatient and home based care settings. Primarily, Nicole serves patients at Allied Services Wilkes-Barre Rehab Center. She possesses a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology from the American Speech, Language, and Hearing Association. Nicole serve individuals of all ages with a variety of diagnosis including CVA, TBI, post concussive, Parkinson’s disease, Voice Disorders, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Autism, language delay/disorders, articulation disorders, and phonological disorders.