Dual tasking is doing more than one thing at a time. People with Parkinson’s (PwP) often have greater difficulty doing 2 things at the same time. This is in part due to the increased concentration required to perform activities. Disruptions with walking when dual tasking is often used as an example due to potential fall risk involved.
Over the years I have focused interventions on redirecting primary focus on gait with less attention to the secondary task. Patient education regarding increased attention demands on gait helps the individual understand the need for redirected focus. Also, educating PwP to place balance as a priority over the task at hand can be helpful for self-management with balance control. Conditioning exercises and gait training utilizing compensatory strategies to maximize stride length can prepare individuals when there are more distractions. I have found benefits in this comprehensive approach.
Only occasionally have I attempted dual task training with individuals with mild PD : walking + cognitive task or walking + manual or walking + manual + cognitive. I have observed either short term or no improvements but have to admit that perhaps not enough time was spent on these activities (4 sessions for 30 minutes).
I have often wondered if I should work more on dual tasking to prepare an individual for the real world but have felt it would require an inordinate number of treatment sessions to become successful. Dual tasking, I find also requires an individual to have the capability or capacity to learn to filter distractions. So, would exposing an individual to numerous distractions help to desensitize and improve focus in dual tasking conditions? If this is so, I would think community Parkinson’s classes could help an individual in this area more economically. Community classes can be ongoing and definitely distracting! Two community based exercise programs which come to mind which specialize in PD and comprehensively address the needs of PwP are:
1. The PWR (Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery) Exercise classes – founded by Becky Farley PT, PhD . Dr Farley is currently doing work in dual task function in early PD. http://www.pwrgym.org/
2. Delay the Disease http://delaythedisease.com/
It appears there are various sources which are currently investigating interventions and outcomes in the area of dual tasking. I look forward to the completion of these studies!