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The Parkinson’s Mailbag

Improving Manual Dexterity

Performing tasks that require precise and repeated movements of fingers and thumbs are often a great challenge for people with Parkinson's (PWPs). Here are some suggestions that may help you increase your manual dexterity.

Improving Handwriting
With PD, handwriting tends to become small, faint and shaky. So common is this problem that "micrographia," or very small writing, is widely considered to be a diagnostic pointer for physicians. My cardinal rule is to save check-signing and letter-writing for my better "on" times, when my medications are working well.

Paula Shook in Pennsylvania, a 12th year PWP, tells us that she agrees, advising "not to frustrate yourself trying a task until you feel your meds kick in".

Although Nancy Porter in South Carolina doesn’t experience tremors, she does find handwriting and typing a problem. She finds that she makes fewer typos if she "watches the monitor" as she types. She also uses graph paper to align her handwritten lines. And she has found that a broad tip calligraphy pen "forms quite acceptable letters".

My preference is for wide-diameter pens with built-in, textured rubber surface for a non-slip grip. I also find that fine-pointed pens allow liquid ink to flow more easily as the pen is moved across a page.

Elizabeth Noriega from California advises us that she uses lined paper but writes through, not on, the lines, “bisecting the line with each up and down stroke.” She believes this technique works n the same way that a line on a floor can help a PWP break a “Parkinson’s freeze”.

Winnie Carol Gray in Texas reports, a bit ruefully, that, "regardless of how bad my signature is, they accept the check." If you are not as fortunate as Winnie, you may want to try using a pre-inked personalized signature stamp pad (for details contact your bank). You might also consider storing two signatures with the bank, one written in your "on" and the other in your "off" state – a nifty way to avoid embarrassing, worried looks from hesitant tellers!!

Two intriguing writing instruments have been developed for shaky hands. The first is the "Steady Write" pen. This is a ballpoint pen attached to a molded plastic base. The writer grips the base and glides it across the paper. The pen, which costs $7.50 can be viewed at or ordered by calling Independent Living Aids on (800) 537-2118.