Receiving cards from family and friends can be one of the best parts of the holidays. For people with Parkinson’s disease (PD), writing out those holiday greetings and addresses can be a challenge because of micrographia and tremor.
Micrographia — small handwriting and handwriting that becomes progressively more cramped and smaller — is a common sign of PD.
Tremor — a common motor symptom of PD — may start in the hand and arm on one side of the body and eventually affect the other side. Tremor can obviously have a big impact on handwriting legibility.
Here are helpful tips to make holiday card writing easier and more legible:
Prep for Success — plan to do your writing during medication ”on” times
Lay the Groundwork - sit in a chair that supports good posture (and feet on the floor!), use a table with height that provides full elbow and arm support, make sure you have adequate task lighting
Get in the Zone — write in quiet place free of distractions; try motor imagery to mentally practice writing before starting your work
Get a Grip — use pens with an ergonomic design or built up grip; try a weighted pen if you experience tremor in your writing hand
Let it Flow — experiment with gel ink pens, which write more smoothly with less pressure needed than ball point pens (note: lefties should watch out for smudging since gel ink takes slightly longer to dry)
Size Matters — choose bigger greeting cards with more area to write; write on the left side of the card where there is more open space to write larger; avoid cards or paper stock that is slick or shiny
Warm Up — practice flicks to get your fingers moving or GO BIG — Hold a pen and imagine you are writing in the air. Make the writing as BIG as possible, then try to make it even BIGGER. You can sign your name, write numbers or draw a picture. Just make it BIG. Use a window or mirror frame to help you keep the letters big. Do this for 2-3 minutes before writing and as needed while you work
Be a Copy Cat — Use this website to make handwriting practice sheets for practice; trace and copy your words before writing them on the card or envelope
Express Yourself — Consider typing a letter to include in your card or use online stores to make a photo collage postcard — remember, a picture says more than 1,000 words!
Take breaks — Focus on writing one word at a time — not the whole name or sentence. Take breaks between words to “reset” (try finger flicks or motor imagery) if writing starts to become smaller or more cramped.
Stay Straight — use a straight edge or ruler and a pencil to draw guide lines for your letters; erase them after you are done — visual cues are shown to be a big help with reducing micrographia; use block letters instead of cursive because straight lines are easier to write out
Focus on the Big Picture — the goal of sending holiday greetings is to let family and friends know you are thinking of them — your handwriting needs only to be legible NOT perfect!