How can you assist?

There are many ways you can help someone with HD be more active!

Help promote an ‘active’ lifestyle (motivational strategies)

The person with Huntington’s Disease (HD) will be more motivated to be physically active if:

  • They are involved with setting achievable goals and with the selection of exercises/activities. Review the person’s progress towards goals on a regular basis. He or she will then be able to see the improvements that they are making.
  • The activities help them to achieve something for themselves (e.g. standing on one leg to be able to dress the bottom half of their body, walk the dog, or walking to the mailbox and back to get mail).
  • The exercise/activities are part of their daily routine. For example, going for a walk at a particular time every day, or practicing balance exercises at the sink after brushing hair or teeth.
  • Exercise is fun. People with HD are more likely to keep doing exercises/activities that they enjoy like going for a walk, shopping, or dancing. Some people are more motivated to exercise if they have another person or a group to exercise with them or if they use an exercise DVD.
  • They choose to do a few (2-3) simple exercises rather than many exercises. A few simple exercises are easier for the person to learn, remember and perform than complex ones.
  • They are supported by family, caregivers, friends, and/or peers with a similar disability. Why not exercise with them!
  • They are encouraged by people around them. People with HD need lots of positive reinforcement to keep active. For example, telling the person ”your balance is better” or “you aren’t falling as much”.
  • They keep an activity diary/ log to track their activity consistency and progression. Keeping a log may help motivate people to continue with exercise/activity programs.
  • They wear pedometers to measure the number of steps taken, is another good way to motivate and measure improvement.
  • They are assisted with organizing and finding appropriate facilities and arranging transport to and from the facilities.

Help during simple everyday activities.

  • Use simple commands to help them complete a task. Complex instructions will make the activity more difficult.
  • Instruct to use the most effective technique when doing functional tasks (e.g. sit to stand and walking).
  • Use verbal cueing to assist them to start off the activity (e.g. count ‘1,2,3 go’).
  • Use manual assistance if necessary (e.g. to help maintain balance in standing). Be aware that some people with chorea may be hindered by hands on assistance.
  • Be calm and reassuring to reduce symptoms of anxiety and irritability.
  • Be patient. The symptoms of HD may mean they take longer to carry out simple activities.