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Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease of the nervous system. It is associated with dopamine deficiencies, and typically affects middle-aged and elderly people.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease make it challenging for those with it, as well as caregivers, to find ways to interact and connect. And because of these challenges, those with Parkinson’s disease often feel stigmatized, depressed, and lonely. Game playing is a great way to overcome this and increase enjoyment in the life of the individual with Parkinson’s disease.

Unfortunately, while game playing is a great tool for socialization, memory making, connecting and interacting despite the mental and physical handicaps associated with Parkinson’s disease, those same handicaps often get in the way of game playing. Caregivers need to consider the various obstacles those with Parkinson’s face, and be selective about the games they play – offering something that challenges the individual without adding to their frustration.

What are some of the handicaps or obstacles faced by those with Parkinson’s disease? While there are many, and they differ in every case, the most common include:

  1. Decreased motor skills
  2. Tremors
  3. Slowed movement
  4. Impaired posture and balance
  5. Loss of automatic movements: blinking, smiling, swinging arms, gestures when talking
  6. Speech changes
  7. Difficulty writing

As you can see, these symptoms can make some games very difficult to play. When you are selecting games to play with someone with Parkinson’s disease, look for options that don’t require a lot of modification or help. It is often frustrating and embarrassing to the individual to need help. By choosing games better suited to their challenges, you allow them to enjoy interacting with dignity. A few good rules of thumb to follow when selecting games include:

  1. Simple rules
  2. Shorter playing time
  3. No cards to hold
  4. Nothing that requires regular need for muscle control
  5. Nothing that requires secrecy or hiding of cards, pieces, etc. (Rummicube, for example would be very difficult as impaired motor skills could lead to knocking over their tray and exposing the tiles to other players)
  6. Simple, easy to communicate instructions
  7. Nothing that requires too great a depth or too much strategy.
  8. Something they can win, and feel achievement in doing so.

R.O.S. Therapy Systems’ Legacy Activity System is a great option for game playing with someone with Parkinson’s. This gaming system allows activity board inserts to be switched in and out on a tray to individualize games and engage loved ones. The tray is easy to use, the inserts easy to manage. The pieces are large and not hard to maneuver. There are no batteries. The games are simple, but offer challenge and creative fun.

The System helps with the following:

  • Socialization
  • Reality testing
  • Time, place and person orientation
  • Stimulated interest in the environment
  • Cues for reminiscence
  • Tactile, auditory and visual stimulation
  • Increased avenues toward motivation
  • Individualization of client, patient, and resident use
  • Self-worth, pride and esteem
  • Decision making opportunities
  • Creative expression
  • An opportunity to have fun

(This article originally appeared on the Caregiving Partnership blog.)

About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.

Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.