Remember Silly Putty? It came in a cute little egg. It was like clay but easier to play with and mold into little figures. Even more fun was pressing it against the comic section of the newspaper. You’d peel the Silly Putty off the paper and the comics would be on the putty. You’d look at it, probably laugh, then roll it up into a ball and do it again. It was mind-numbing fun until you got bored, which was usually in ten minutes or less….more often than not, less.
A few months ago, my new neurologist recommended that I start working with an occupational therapist. I’ve been having trouble with my hands for a few years. It started with my writing becoming smaller and illegible. That’s typical for someone with Parkinson’s Disease. It’s an issue for a writer who likes to write the first draft in longhand and then start editing before typing out the column. It’s difficult to do that when when you can’t decipher what you’ve written on the paper.
I found a way to work around this. I eliminated the paper/pencil part of the exercise. It’s much easier to read comic sans font from my laptop than my illegible scribbles. It’s faster, too. I wish I had thought about this a decade ago.
But lately, some other issues have surfaced. I’ve lost strength in both hands. I’ve also had been showing a lack of dexterity. When you have problems buttoning a shirt or picking up coins from a dresser, you should take it as a sign to get some help. Hence, occupational therapy.
I was given some exercises that are supposed to increase hand strength and flexibility. I pick up coins and put them in a pile. I pick up blocks with a tweezer and place them in a box. I spin a pen in a circle, counter-clockwise. But the main exercise is working with therapy putty.
When I was first shown the pink solution, I immediately thought back to youth. But this stuff is nothing like that toy of six decades ago. The first thing I did when I got it home was to flatten it against the Sunday newspaper comic section. When I peeled it off, what did I find? Nothing! Nada! Zip!! DAMN!!!!
What they have me do that is much less fun than playing with Silly Putty. I start by squeezing the therapy putty in a ball. I do it with each hand for ten reps. Shhhh…don’t tell my therapist but I rarely do all ten reps. Phew! I feel better admitting that.
Next, I put the putty between each finger and squeeze. You should see the tremors when I’m working it between my ring finger and the pinky. It’s obvious I need much more work in this area.
Finally, I hide coins and little buttons inside the putty. I then try to dig them out. It’s a little more difficult than it sounds. Hmmm….so that’s where my missing quarters have gone.
When I finish these exercises, my hands are tired and sore; but it seems to be working. My strength measurements have slightly increased in the two months since I started this program. Small steps, There is still a long way to go.
Oh yeah, they also want me to start writing in longhand again. I’ve been doing this for my recent columns. While my writing doesn’t look much better, I can at least read it, sort of, especially if I don’t let it sit overnight before I try to transpose it. That said, I better end this and get my laptop to type this up before it’s too late. Again, small steps.
Related Post: Art as therapy for Parkinson’s Disease
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