How to Help Your Parent with Parkinson’s
Aging can be stressful and difficult to deal with, but it can become downright scary to watch a parent age and suffer from a debilitating disease or condition. Although younger people can develop Parkinson’s disease, it's far more prevalent in the aging population. But there are things you can do to ease mom or dad’s symptoms, find a comfortable assisted living home or in-home care, and make them feel as well as possible.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s is a motor system disorder, which results from the loss of certain brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. It's a slowly progressive disease, meaning that symptoms only get worse with time. Causes of the disease are not completely understood yet, but some research indicates that genetics, toxins in the environment, and even just aging itself may contribute to the onset of the disorder and the breakdown of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.
Who is at Risk of Developing Parkinson’s?
Without knowing fully what causes Parkinson’s, it's difficult to predict who will develop the disease. The only absolutely certain risk factor is age. As we age, our chances of experiencing Parkinson’s symptoms increases significantly. Although genetics is thought to play a role in the disease, having a close relative with Parkinson’s does not increase your risk to any great extent. Exposure to environmental toxins such as chemicals, pesticides, or well water may increase risk, but as of now, there's no hard evidence to prove that these things have any effect.
How is Parkinson’s Diagnosed?
The symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
- Trembling or tremors in the face or jaw, arms, legs or hands
- Stiffness in the limbs and trunk
- Slow movement, which is called bradykinesia
- Reduced coordination, impaired balance or instability
If your parent seems to be experiencing any of these symptoms, they need to see a doctor for tests and diagnosing. There is no single, conclusive test for Parkinson’s. Doctors will use an evaluation of symptoms, a neurological examination and CT or MRI scans to rule out other diseases first before diagnosing Parkinson’s.
In-Home Care for Parkinson’s
For many people, caring for a parent with Parkinson’s is very doable, especially in the early stages of the disease. While there's no cure for Parkinson’s, there are many medications available that can ease the symptoms.
- Levodopa helps to make dopamine, and carbidopa in combination with levodopa helps to keep it from forming dopamine in the bloodstream until it reaches the brain.
- Anticholinergics can help with rigidity.
- Bradykinesia, bromocriptine and ropinirole act to mimic dopamine in the brain.
- Physical therapy, which can be done in the home or at a gym, can also provide a great deal of relief from symptoms and can help maintain muscle mass.
Other, seemingly minor adjustments in the home can make life easier for a parent with Parkinson’s. You can rearrange the furniture to create a path for walking, which will help with slow movement and impaired balance. The furniture can be strategically placed to give your parent something to hold on to throughout the house. Tremors can be reduced by placing weight on the affected hand. Eating slowly and with small bites can help reduce issues with jaw stiffness while eating.
Another very important concern to be aware of when caring for a parent in home is depression. You and other caretakers should always be observant and look for the signs of depression, which can include:
- Lethargy and/or indifference
- Change in sleeping habits
- Disinterest in eating
- Sudden Weight loss
- Lack of desire to do normal activities
- Unexplained irritability
It's important to know that some medications may cause depression as a side effect, which can exacerbate depression that can develop as a result of having the disease. The moment you suspect depression, you should consult your parent’s doctor.
Assisted Living and Parkinson’s
If it becomes impossible to care for a parent at home, it's very important to find the best assisted living programs. Assisted living housing can be a fine alternative for caring for an elderly Parkinson’s patient. The appropriate facility should have the resources and trained staff capable of caring for someone with this disease. In some situations, it may be the best way for you to help your aging or elderly parent. When looking for the right place, ask plenty of questions, such as:
- What level of care will my parent receive?
- Are members of the staff trained to work with patients with Parkinson’s disease?
- Is physical therapy available on-site?
- Is there a physician or nurse in residence or on call?
- How will medications be monitored and delivered?
- Do residents receive assistance with medication and treatment plans?
- How much choice do residents have in food and meals?
- How much assistance do patients receive for day-to-day activities?
The more questions you ask, the more likely you'll be to find the perfect location for your parent suffering from Parkinson’s.
Providing elderly care for your parent can be stressful, difficult and overwhelming. But, they need your help and will rely on you, if not for direct care, to find them the best place possible to receive care and treatment. With an investment of time, you can make sure that your parents live with their disease in the most comfort possible.
Publish Date: Mon, 02/14/2011 - 11:10
Categories: Care for Mom and Dad