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Does Masking Have A New Meaning?

Mask Up!

There is a common, unfunny, and overused joke about not playing poker with people who have Parkinson’s disease because many of us have reduced facial movement and it can be hard to read our expressions. This is masking, as I understand it. Sometimes the muscles for smiling just do not work well. Speech clarity and projection are vital to being understood. Being heard under a cloth mask when one has voice issues makes life frustrating for both the speaker and the listener.

Now, to make matters more of a challenge, add practicing social distancing, having a problem with your speech, having a softer voice, and placing a mask over that soft voice.  For someone with Parkinson’s disease, the combination of muffling the mouth, relying on just the eyes can be deceptive, and poor vocal projection, all add up to not being easily understood and worsens communications.

For some of us with Parkinson’s disease, our eyes are not as expressive or fluid as we would like, added to the tightening of facial, neck, and jaw muscles. Dry mouth, too much saliva, swallowing issues, and dental problems can all contribute to someone with Parkinson’s speech challenges.

Sight and Sound are Covered

Communication in a marriage is crucial and in this new COVID-19 pandemic of being home sequestered, the sharing of information is close and continuous. To maintain human interaction with family and friends by phone or new social technologies, takes a little practice.

Be sure that while under the fabric facial mask, (if your jaw is ok), to move your mouth, lips, and jaw. Exercising the facial muscles can add to your expressions. Do not just hide your face under the mask. Remember that you are going to have to speak louder, slower, and clearer, especially, with a mask covering your mouth. One more challenge to tackle. We can do it!

Preserving the Smile

Parkinson’s Disease can take away the very basic but vital skills that we treasure and sometimes take for granted. Facial masking, or loss of obvious facial emotion can make identifying a Parkinson’s patient’s state of emotion very hard to read, by observation. Due to muscle tightness and rigidity in the jaw and facial muscles, some patients find it difficult to smile.

Just taking the time on a daily basis and scrunching your face in the mirror, wiggling your tongue back and forth, and squinting your eyes and face can be a great way to keep the face a little more limber. That’s what I do!

A smile is not to be wasted nor forgotten. Use your smile and share it with the world. Sometimes we forget to smile and the power that comes with it. If those facial muscles are a challenge for your smile, do what you can to work to keep those facial muscles as limber as you can and keep that bright smile. A smile is a viral gift that often comes back, when shared with others.

We shouldn’t have to, but Parkinson’s disease may make us have to practice smiling, instead of just doing it naturally.

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