Managing brain fog and confusion

Emma Bracher is an independent occupational therapist. She explains how occupational therapy can benefit people with Parkinson’s who are having problems with thinking, memory or confusion.

How can an occupational therapist help?

An occupational therapist will discuss with you any issues you’re having and will help to find the best strategies and techniques for managing your symptoms. They can also teach you and your family more about Parkinson’s-related memory and thinking problems, what to expect and when to seek further advice or support.

They may help your specialist or Parkinson’s nurse by giving them some simple memory and thinking tests to try with you. These can be useful for helping to pinpoint any specific issues you might be having. The tests will also allow them to measure and track any future changes in your symptoms.

What tips and strategies can help people with Parkinson’s perform everyday tasks more effectively?

  • Avoid too much change in your usual routine or environment. If changes are unavoidable, make them gradually and give yourself time to adjust.
  • Make family, friends and colleagues aware of the difficulties you’re having and what can help make things easier for you.
  • Use a diary or calendar for appointments and important dates, and to keep track of what you’ve been doing.
  • Use a smartphone, speaker or smart watch for medication and appointment reminders.
  • Put important items, such as your keys, wallet and medication, in the same place every time.
  • Keep all important documents and reminders filed and in one place for easy access.
  • When you’re having an important conversation, reading a document or focusing on a key task, find a quiet, well-lit light space and keep distractions to a minimum.

What advice do you have for family, friends and carers?

It can be difficult, but try not to get frustrated when your loved one forgets what you’ve told them, tells you the same things twice, or if they keep misplacing things. It’s not their fault, and reacting can make the person’s anxiety worse and affect their self-esteem.

Instead, tell them what you’ve said again, or ask them to repeat what they’ve said. If they’ve misplaced something, join in the search to find what they’ve lost. If appropriate, make light of the situation. Sometimes a little bit of humour can go a long way and will help someone to relax and think more clearly.