Parkinson’s disease affects countless people in the United States. While a cure is not yet available, seniors living with this progressive neurogenerative disorder can manage their symptoms and continue to live a high quality of life. This guide is essential for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
How common is Parkinson’s disease?
Behind Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder in the United States, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In most cases of Parkinson’s, people tend to be 60 years or older. Relatively few are younger than 50.
Approximately 500,000 Americans have received a Parkinson’s diagnosis. However, this number may be higher, considering many individuals may go undiagnosed or be misdiagnosed. Due to the progressive nature of the disease, many spouses, adult children, and caregivers are indirectly impacted, too.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease affects an individual’s central nervous system, which is comprised of neurons. When these nerve cells begin to lose normal function or die, symptoms of Parkinson’s appear. Neurons produce dopamine and the loss of dopamine results in impaired movement.
People diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease experience motor symptoms that involve movement, such as tremors that make it difficult for them to control their bodily movements. Besides tremors, affected older adults suffer from slowness of reflexes, stiffness in their limbs, and impaired balance.
Non-motor symptoms occur alongside these motor symptoms. Parkinson’s patients live with cognitive impairment, mood and behavioral issues, an altered sense of smell, depression and anxiety, fatigue, and sleep problems that significantly decrease their standard of living and require symptom-related treatment.
Parkinson’s patients have a high risk for developing dementia, and many do. The start of movement symptoms precedes the onset of dementia by several years and varies from person to person. Dementia is the primary reason these seniors begin to need long-term care.
How do seniors manage symptoms?
Parkinson’s symptoms manifest differently among diagnosed seniors. Furthermore, symptom intensity and progression differ from individual to individual. But through healthy choices, medication compliance and, in some cases, medical procedures, seniors can live well with their disease.
1. Schedule regular exercise
Mobility is affected by Parkinson’s, making it beneficial for the short- and long-term for seniors to incorporate regular exercise into their days. An older adult’s mobility, coordination and balance are maintained or improved with cycling, dancing, swimming, walking, or Tai Chi.
2. Eat balanced meals
Healthy eating is recommended for Parkinson’s patients. Consuming fiber by eating fruits and vegetables can relieve the constipation associated with their disease. Reduce muscle cramping by staying hydrated with non-alcoholic beverages. Foods rich in antioxidants are good for overall health.
3. Consider medications
Medications are available to successfully treat the motor symptoms that result from Parkinson’s. Seniors should consult their neurologist or movement disorder specialist to determine which classes of drugs are most beneficial throughout the course of their disease. Some Parkinson’s drugs are available in generic forms, making them affordable.
4. Access disability benefits
Parkinson’s patients who still work may be concerned about their ability to continue providing for themselves and their families. Due to the progressive nature of Parkinson’s, symptoms only worsen as time goes on and introduce challenges to remaining in the workforce.
Older employees with Parkinson’s are advised to explore long-term disability insurance; however, applying for LTD benefits is extremely complicated after a diagnosis. Disabled workers who qualify can receive social security disability insurance. Like all insurance benefits, the rules are complex.
5. Participate in clinical trials
Clinical trials spearhead the race to finding a cure and better treatments for Parkinson’s disease. Seniors who join clinical trials may have access to the newest therapies. Parkinson’s patients are encouraged to discuss with their healthcare team whether a clinical trial is right for them.
6. Rely on a healthcare team
Life is easier when seniors lean on experts in the field of Parkinson’s disease. Professionals include neurologists who specialize in Parkinson’s, nurses, physical therapists, speech therapists, pharmacists, and social workers. Team members and their roles may or may not change as symptoms progress.
7. Make home modifications
Adapting the home for aging in place is crucial for safety. A number of modifications can be made to ease movement in the home and ensure living spaces are safe and accessible. Removing clutter, raising the bed, and installing grab bars in bathrooms and handrails on stairs are recommended.
8. Opt for home care
Most people with Parkinson’s disease choose to age in place. Living at home is the preferred alternative to entering an assisted living facility as their symptoms progressively worsen. Home care from a reputable home care agency fulfills their desire to remain at home and receive support.
Older adults with a Parkinson’s diagnosis have access to reliable in-home care from Assisting Hands Home Care. We offer compassionate Parkinson’s care to make it easier for patients to live at home. Our caregivers also provide a range of non-medical services to help seniors with the activities of daily living.
Mobility changes that result from Parkinson’s disease, such as freezing, can elevate the risks for falls. Our caregivers lower their fall risk by removing clutter from walkways, ensure rugs are non-skid, and move all electrical cords out of the way.
Our comprehensive in-home care services include help with hygiene tasks, like bathing, grooming, and dressing. We provide safe transportation to an occupational therapist’s or doctor’s office. Medication reminders are provided. Caregivers also keep the home clean with light housekeeping.
Families are offered flexible scheduling options. If Parkinson’s progresses to dementia, seniors benefit from our quality in-home memory care. We also offer respite care to relieve family caregivers, hospice care, and companion care to keep the elderly socially active and engaged.
When your aging loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or simply wishes for extra help at home, choose Assisting Hands Home Care. We serve seniors in Buffalo Grove, IL | Deerfield, IL | Lake Zurich, IL | Lake Forest, IL | Lincolnshire, IL | Mundelein, IL | Highland Park, IL | Libertyville, IL | Round Lake Beach, IL , Vernon Hills, IL and the surrounding areas in Lake County, Illinois. We are privileged to fulfill the non-medical care needs of seniors in the community. Call us at (224) 268-9068 to schedule a free in-home consult today.