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Preventing Parkinson’s Disease Weight Loss

Walker Methodist | Apr 5, 2022

If you’ve ever known someone with Parkinson’s disease (PD), you may have noticed meal times can be difficult. Between a loss of appetite and the presence of tremors, it’s common for someone with PD to begin losing weight.

At Walker Methodist, we work closely with our residents with PD to make sure they can gain or maintain their weight while keeping as much independence as possible.

These simple steps can help someone with PD live more comfortably.

Stay hydrated

Senior man in wheelchair laughs at table staff member

The medications commonly prescribed to residents with Parkinson’s disease can lead to dehydration. Many people with PD already manage difficult symptoms, including balance issues, kidney failure, cognitive confusion, and muscle weakness — and all of these symptoms can be increased by lack of fluid intake.

We monitor our residents’ fluid intake to make sure they are combating the side effects of their regular medications so they can stay healthy and active. Sometimes, it’s as simple as adding fruit to water to encourage them to stay hydrated. Other times, this means personal check-ins and monitoring to ensure residents are hydrated properly.

Combat constipation

Because people with PD can have slower digestive systems as a result of the disease, they may experience constipation. Eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods rich in fiber can help people with PD stay more regular and comfortable. In turn, this can help increase appetite and routine eating.

Manage swallowing problems

Senior facility staff talks with man and woman at dining table

Many times, people with PD experience difficulty swallowing, which means they may eat less and lose weight. Our Parkinson’s care program includes a team of speech therapists who work with residents to improve their ability to drink and eat. 

Some of our residents have textured dietary accommodations, often meaning that we blend their meals. Our goal is always to work with residents to move them toward a textured diet, and we explore a wide range of options to give our residents with PD a dignified dining experience that also allows them to meet their daily calorie goals.

If a resident continues to lose weight, we will often consult with the resident and their family to talk through options — including whether the resident would benefit from other methods of feeding.

Try different utensils or finger foods

Because Parkinson’s impacts motor skills, people with PD can struggle to eat with regular utensils.  Our therapy teams work with residents to use weighted spoons, which aren’t altered by movement and tremors, or curved spoons that make it easier to eat with limited dexterity. 

As tremors increase, switching to finger foods can often give someone with PD more independence and make mealtimes easier.

Make sure to exercise

While muscle stiffness and tremors are common side effects for many people with PD, exercising can actually expand a person’s gait, improve their balance, increase their freedom of movement, and enhance their fine motor skills. Daily exercise can also stimulate appetite and support regular eating habits.

We encourage our residents to do as much as they can on their own, and we offer opportunities for regular exercise to help them strengthen their bodies and minds.

Find Parkinson’s care at Walker Methodist

For many individuals with PD, there comes a point where additional care and support are needed to complete their daily activities. Our communities offering Parkinson’s care are equipped with everything a person needs to live their life as they manage a PD diagnosis.

Are you curious if Walker Methodist is the right next step for you or your loved one? Schedule a tour and see for yourself.

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