Managing brain fog and confusion in Parkinson's

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 can you do at home to help manage brain fog and confusion?

Stick to a routine

Avoid too much change in your usual routine or environment. If changes are unavoidable, make them gradually and give yourself time to adjust.

Make a memory basket

A 'memory' basket will help you to keep your important items, such as your keys, wallet and glasses, in the same place every time.

Keep all important documents and reminders filed and in one place for easy access.

Set reminders for yourself

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.

Use visual prompts

Having calendars, clocks, noticeboards and notices around your home may help jog your memory and provide helpful reminders.

You may find it helps to keep a list of things to do. You can see what you have achieved as you tick off each task.

Use a medication dispenser

Medication dispensers and pill timers can be useful to help remind you when to take your medication. It’s important to take them at the times advised by your specialist or Parkinson’s nurse. 

Pill dispensers and timers are available from the Parkinson’s UK shop.

Keep distractions to a minimum

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.

Talk to others

Make family, friends and colleagues aware of the difficulties you’re having and what can help make things easier for you.

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.