Parkinson’s disease causes a host of problems for older adults, but some of the most commonly reported issues relate directly to muscles. From tremors to the constant feeling of exhaustion, caregivers must be aware of the specific dangers this disease presents. Here’s a look at two common Parkinson’s complications and tips for dealing with them.
Struggle#1: How to help your loved one with stiff limbs caused by Parkinson’s
One of the most widely reported issues seniors face with this disease is stiff limbs. Seeing both a physical and occupational therapist will play a large part in battling this unwelcome side effect. The physical therapist will prescribe a number of exercises to be performed on a daily basis. With more and more time, these exercises will help to reduce the muscle stiffness and rigidity. An occupational therapist, on the other hand, works to teach the senior smart ways that make normal activities easier. For example, seniors will learn different or slightly altered ways of holding a fork or lifting a cup to the mouth.
In addition to these professional therapies, it’s important to realize that caregivers can also help at home. Doing some kind of daily aerobic exercise can help to loosen muscles and decrease stiffness. Going for a brisk walk each morning or perhaps engaging in resistance training exercises will increase a senior’s ability to function on multiple levels. It’s also a great way to lift the mood!
Another tip for caregivers is to try reducing the senior’s caffeine intake. The reason for this is because the caffeine found in sodas, coffee and tea can actually add to the body tremors associated with Parkinson’s.
Struggle #2: How to address swallowing problems caused by Parkinson’s
Due to the facial muscles that are affected by Parkinson’s disease, seniors often experience problems with swallowing. In fact, choking is a real hazard with this particular disease and caregivers must remain alert when mealtime arrives.
If you’re concerned about swallowing problems, it may be a good idea to plan meals that are more appropriate. Here are a few meal tips for your senior:
• When it comes to drinks, the thicker, the better. Thicker consistencies promote swallowing, so you may want to serve milkshakes or juices that have a thickener added to them.
• Moist foods that also have a soft consistency are best for seniors with Parkinson’s.
• Avoid foods that are known for creating crumbs, like crackers. These items are notorious for getting stuck in the throat.
You’ll also want to encourage your senior to chew his or her food thoroughly, then swallow. If food gets lodged in the throat, sweep the mouth or perform the Heimlich maneuver, then call 911.