Friday, October 9, 2009

Winter Is No Friend to Parkinson's Disease

How to Cope with the Winter Months when You Have PD

It's October the middle of Fall here in the Northern Hemisphere. and we're looking forward to a ride in the country to see the changing colors soon but recently, lying in bed in the early morning I can feel it coming...Winter.

Parkinson's patients need to prepare. Most PDers find that they aren't as able to tolerate cold weather as they were before the diagnosis. Tremors are stronger, muscles become more rigid the colder it gets. The extra stiffness makes it harder to get in and out of cars and more hours of darkness make it difficult for many PwPs who prefer not to drive at night. Winter also heralds an increase in disastrous falls on ice so be sure to have comfortable warm waterproof boots with decent treads.

Most falls are on steps, porches and sidewalks so it is important they are cleared and salted.  Also you can use sand on those areas where the concrete is new. Many falls are caused by black ice that an invisible layer you can''t see. If you are not sure of conditions, walk with your feet spread father apart. Women should not wear high heeled boots or shoes. Take your shoes or boots off as soon as you get in the house to avoid creating wet slippery areas.

Stock up on rock salt or its equivalent now - get a handy covered container and a long handled scoop so that you don't have to bend over too far.

Going out during freezing weather requires dressing in layers, make sure you have thermal underwear, sweat shirts, sweat pants, turtle necks,sweaters. Gloves, hats, scarves are important; 40% of your body's heat loss is through the head. You'll be happy you have those little extra items of clothing if your car gets stuck in the snow. Put a blanket in the car just in case. And don't forget to take your cell case you need to summon help.

Even though you want to save the money, don't turn the heat down in your house, it's too hard on PWPs. Most of us can't stand the cold. Have the chimney checked for cracks in the flue liner and for blockages which can hinder the draw of those combustion by-products. If you use your fireplace have that chimney cleaned.

Consider buying a set-back thermostat. You can set it back at night to save you $$$s at night when you sleep or when you are at work if you have a job and set it to come on in the morning and evening when you want the warmth of your home. Electric mattress pads or blankets can keep you comfortable as you breathe the healthier, cooler air as well as save money by using less fuel that the set-back furnace. These are little tips that may cost a few dollars but in the long run may also save a few while making you more comfortable.

If you have triple track storm windows, pull down the storms and put the screens up. To further insulate, you might try putting bubble wrap up at windows only for light...we need the lift that we get from a good view. Little velcro dots with a self stick backing will hold the translucent wrap to the window frame. Don't try double stick tape-it doesn't work well. Light in-cold out-heat stays inside. If you get the velcro to coordinate with the window casing, leave the dots in place and you can use the same bubble wrap next year...just give it a little up arrow when you remove it in the winter.

I just found out that I was going to be re-glazing/re-puttying some 1st floor windows which I can reach by standing on the ground - I haven't done ladders since shortly after my diagnosis. But I can still re-glaze like a contractor so you-know-who says its my job to stop those potential air leaks.

If you own your own home it's time to have the gutters cleaned and the roof checked for bad/missing shingles. Time to have the furnace checked and to stock up on furnace filters.

Do you have slowly running drains? It's better to address those now than when the ground is frozen. And don't forget to turn off the outside faucets. Check for standing water around the foundation - that's where it could flood the basement when the thaw finally comes.

You gardeners know what you have to do but here's a reminder on those bare spots in the lawn. Fall is the best time to get out the rake to prep the ground where you want to plant the new seed and then to seed it for a fresh new look in the Spring.

Continue your exercise program but be careful if you choose to rake leaves or shovel snow because uneven ground or slippery sidewalks are not our friends. Help the economy by trying to find that rare reliable neighborhood kid who is willing to pick up where you opt for safety.

Last spring we talked about SAD lights and Vitamin D3. The days grow shorter and your need for light will grow stronger.

You can order full spectrum bulbs online now so that you won't feel too depressed to do it later. This is also the end of the time to plant those other bulbs to bring up another spectrum of color in the Spring.

And from better minds than ours, a few rainy fall and snowy winter weather quotes to brighten your day

"The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination." ~ Ward Elliot Hour
"Winter is the season in which people try to keep the house as warm as it was in the summer, when they complained about the heat." ~ Author Unknown
"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain." ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain." ~ Anonymous
"Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet." ~ Roger Miller
"Don't knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while." ~ Kin Hubbard
"Winter is nature's way of saying, "Up yours." ~Robert Byrne
"Spring, summer, and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition." ~ Mignon McLaughlin
"Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation." ~ Sinclair Lewis
"One kind word can warm three winter months." ~ Japanese Proverb


  1. Thanks for the fantastic article

  2. My husband was diagnosed with early onset PD in the fall, and we both noticed a huge increase in his tremors last winter. I was curious if others experienced the same.

    Thanks for this!

  3. Depending upon where you live climate-wise, it is possible that your husband is reacting to the cold with an increase in his tremors. I don't know if he would be helped my warmer socks and wearing a hat/cap but it might be something to consider to conserve heat loss this winter.
    When stressed Steve's slight tremors would increase dramatically and not just in his "PD hand" but also in his leg. Since his body always (all of the years I knew him) felt warmer than most, he did not react as much to the cold except at bedtime. We discontinued the electric blankets (dogs loved to tear them apart) in favor of electric heated mattress covers.
    While the disease shouldn't define one, it is important to recognize that some things might change and adjust as necessary.
    Perhaps this winter will not be as bad as the early signs have indicated.

    1. A quick addendum to my comment: no it is not unusual for a pwp (person with Parkinson's) to experience more tremors in cold weather.

  4. wow, i thought i was going crazy. i have had pd for 4 years now and up until this year i could tolerate the winter . however, everything has changed this year. my movements are very slow, i am extremely rigid, etc.....good to know there ia an explanation for this. thx, mike


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