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Characteristics of Huntington’s Disease

Motor Cognitive Psychiatric
Chorea Loss of executive functioning Depression
Dystonia Difficulty with multi tasking Anhedonia (loss of sexual libido)
Motor impersistance Rigid, inflexible thoughts Suicidal ideations
Dysarthria Poor concentration, easily distractible Social isolation
Dysphagia Impaired spatial perception Disrupted sleep patterns
Poor Posture Impaired impulse control Delusions
Incoordination Diminished vocabulary Hallucinations
Delayed initiation Poor insight Paranoia
Impaired gait and balance Impaired spatial relations Irritability
Short term memory loss

Study Tip: ** Think of HD as a combination of ALS and Alzheimer’s Disease combined as a inherited progressive neuromotor degenerative disorder **

Implications for Occupational Therapy

Daily functions and activities can be harder for someone with Huntington’s than someone that does not. The involuntary muscle spasms make it hard for the patient to do much with their hands, or do things without help. These patients often time have trouble maintaining a healthy body weight. This stems from unknown metabolic issues and the fact that they have trouble chewing, swallowing and using their fine motor skills to eat.


  Making the foods and liquids easier to eat can help and drinks with adaptive equipment/tools. Keeping in mind, that the patient will need full assistance to eat and drink.

  Use calendars and schedules to help keep a regular routine

  Initiate tasks with reminders or assistance prioritize/organize work or activities.

  Break down tasks, even simple ones into manageable steps

  Create an environment that is as calm, simple and as structured as possible

  Identify and avoid stressors of any sort that may trigger outbursts, irritability, depression or other problems.


Pedretti, L. W., & Early, M. B. (Eds.). (2001). Occupational therapy: Practice skills for physical dysfunction (pp. 3-12). London: Mosby.

“Huntington Disease.” Genetics Home Reference. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved from http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/huntington-disease on February 26, 2018

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