Getting to know...an occupational therapist

Emma Bracher is an independent occupational therapist and works with people with Parkinson's. 

I have worked as an independent occupational therapist for 8 years. I find working with people with Parkinson’s very rewarding. I love how a simple piece of advice or introducing a small change in how a person does something can have such a significant and positive impact on that person. 

In a typical week, I will visit people at home. I advise them on suitable adaptations to their house and can suggest equipment to make day-to-day life easier and safer for them. I do therapy sessions with people who may be experiencing slow and small movements, or freezing, and can teach them to use mental, visual and auditory cueing strategies to help with these problems. If someone is falling, I may address their posture and position. No two days are the same, which I love! And in my view, it is never too early to see a therapist. Advice at any stage of your diagnosis will be useful to you. 

Four years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's. Naturally, he was worried about what the future might hold for him. He would go out of his way to avoid meeting other people with Parkinson's, in fear of seeing something that he didn’t want to see. I couldn’t help thinking how daunting and lonely this must feel and I found myself wanting to tell others in a similar situation, that those emotions were completely natural. Although a diagnosis of something like Parkinson’s is often a huge shock, and certainly not something that you would ever wish for, it does not have to be all doom and gloom.

My advice to everyone with Parkinson’s is to find yourself a group of like-minded people and fight back at Parkinson’s together.

In recent years, the benefits of exercise for people with Parkinson’s has really caught my attention. Although not traditionally part of an occupational therapist’s role, I began using functional exercise therapy with people – exercises which can help someone carry out everyday activities. It is a way to help people take better control of their Parkinson’s, to improve their ability to function and, perhaps most importantly, build on their confidence, self-esteem and ‘fight back’ attitude. 

For the last two years I have been running a range of exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s, including non-contact boxing and circuits. We have people coming to classes who have been diagnosed for just a few months and others for over 10 years – proving that you can’t compare yourself to anyone, and that every person with Parkinson’s will experience a different journey. But my advice to everyone with Parkinson’s is to find yourself a group of like-minded people and fight back at Parkinson’s together. It will not be as scary as you think and the strength that that you will draw from each other will be unbeatable!

Find out more about occupational therapy for Parkinson's.