Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease that slowly progresses and worsens over time. It affects a person’s ability to control their movements, body and emotions. It is not fatal, but there is no cure for the disease. As the disease worsens, caregivers will need to know how to care for the specific needs of a Parkinson’s patient at home. Here are some of the things you need to know.
1. The goal of your loved one’s doctor and the care team should be to provide as high a quality of life as possible. The care plan should include medications, physical and occupational therapy. If your loved one seems depressed or anxious, talk therapy may help to alleviate it.
2. There are five stages of Parkinson’s disease as described by the National Parkinson Foundation:
- Stage One: Mild symptoms do not interfere with daily activities. Tremors occur on only one side of the body. You may notice changes in posture, walking and facial expressions.
- Stage Two: Tremors, rigidity and other movement symptoms get worse and affect both sides of the body. Completing day-to-day tasks becomes more difficult.
- Stage Three: This is considered mid-stage in the progression of the disease. Loss of balance, slowness of movements, falls are more common. Activities such as dressing and eating become more difficult.
- Stage Four: Symptoms are severe and very limiting. Moving may require a walker. Help is needed with daily activities and the person can’t live alone.
- Stage Five: This is the advanced stage of the disease. The person cannot walk and is wheelchair bound or bedridden. Around the clock nursing care is needed. The person may experience hallucinations or delusions.
3. Parkinson’s disease has non-motor symptoms as well. These can include:
- Sleep disorders
- Pain and fatigue
- Excessive sweating
- Vision problems
- Loss of sense of smell and/or vision problems
4. Seek an expert care team: The better care your loved one has the better quality of life he or she will have. The right care team will have different experts who can address the different neurological, physical, emotional and medication needs of your loved one. Look for “movement disorder specialists” who are neurologists with special training in Parkinson’s disease. Usually, these specialists are found in large academic teaching hospitals. You can ask your loved one’s primary care physician for a referral. The National Parkinson Foundation also provides a link to find specialists in your area.
5. No two people have the same Parkinson’s disease, in other words, it affects different people in different ways. Each person will have different symptoms and a different speed of disease progression. Also, the disease puts some people at higher risk of developing other health conditions which may include:
- Melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
- Neurogenic Orthostatic Hypotension (nOH), a persistent drop in blood pressure that occurs when standing.
- Pseudobulbar affect (PBA), characterized by frequent, uncontrollable outbursts of crying or laughing.
If your loved one begins to exhibit these symptoms, check with the doctor right away.
6. Seek support: As a caregiver you need help. You need time to take care of doctor’s appointments and other personal tasks. You also need a break from time to time. If you remain refreshed you will be able to provide great care. The more exhausted you become, the apter you are to feel resentful and burnout. Look for a qualified, professional caregiver agency with caregivers who are specially trained in caring for Parkinson’s patients. They will support you in your caregiving responsibilities.
Research is continuing to provide important breakthroughs in the treatment of the disease. In the meantime, gather all the information possible to understand the disease and how to care for your loved one. Take the time to assess your needs and make the best choice for yourself and your senior. If the idea of taking on supporting your loved one with Parkinson’s disease gets overwhelming remember our LivHOME Life Care Manager (Geriatric Care Managers) are perfectly suited for the job!