Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological disorder occurring when certain neurons of the brain die or become impaired, each year in the United States, 60,000 new cases are diagnosed in the US.

The disease affects seniors over age 65 in particular and for these individuals, living with Parkinson’s Disease may pose a daily challenge. Therefore, it is essential for their families to understand the disease in order to be able to support their loved one as good as possible.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

The most common symptom of Parkinson’s Disease is persistent body tremor.
Individuals also suffer from:

  • Stiffness
  • Sluggish movements
  • Hand cramps
  • Frozen facial expressions
  • Shuffling

Additionally, their sense of balance may be impaired and muffled speech patterns are likely to occur. A person affected by Parkinson’s Disease may not only have these physical symptoms though, but also suffer from depression.

Early symptoms are usually quite mild, affecting only one side of the body, and individuals are mostly able to continue their lives without having to take medication or requiring assistance. However, symptoms worsen as the disease progresses, making routine habits such as bathing or dressing a challenge. The increased tremors affect dexterity and movements begin to slow down significantly.

Eventually, symptoms may start occurring in both sides of the body. In some cases, individuals develop dementia late in the process, but experts are still not sure about the likelihood of this development.

Diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s Disease is not easily diagnosed in the elderly due to the fact that neither blood tests nor x-rays reveal the condition. By using blood tests or MRI, however, other conditions can be eliminated, making the diagnosis of Parkinson’s easier.

Profiles of individuals suffering from the disease vary to a great extent, which makes it difficult for individuals to predict whether they are likely to develop the disease.

In order to diagnose the disease, a neurologist or other qualified physician makes the appropriate neurological examination and may even be able to observe some of the symptoms affecting the individual. The sooner the visit, the better as a treatment regimen can be implemented straightaway. The reason for this is that Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic illness and consequently requires many modes of treatment over time in order to maintain an individual’s quality of life.

Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease

Unfortunately, Parkinson’s is irreversible and a progressive disease, just like Alzheimer’s Disease. However, there are some medications used today that treat and control the symptoms. Individuals with Parkinson’s therefore have the possibility to continue their lives without being greatly affected by the disease. This further stresses the importance of scheduling a doctor’s appointment if in doubt. The earlier Parkinson’s Disease is discovered, the more help is available.

In some cases, for instance, if medications do not show the desired result, having surgery may also be a possibility to treat Parkinson’s. Several techniques have been developed over the past years and are frequently used today. It is yet important to note that none of them offer a true cure. In addition, these surgeries pose several risks and may not be an option for fragile seniors as a result.

Living with Parkinson’s Disease

If your loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, there is no need to worry too much as there are several actions you can take in order to support your loved one.

First of all, if you do not believe you can handle this all by yourself, talk to a senior care adviser, your family or friends. Create a care-giving team, which can help and assist your loved one.

There are also various support groups and national organizations providing Parkinson’s Disease information, suggesting strategies for coping with it and helping individuals suffering from the disease.

Individuals suffering from Parkinson’s often experience high levels of anxiety, as they fear the progression of the disease and its consequences. As a result, they tend to turn inward and avoid others with the disease, making it difficult to join support groups. Experts suggest, however, that talking to somebody who really understands Parkinson’s is the first step individuals should take once diagnosed with the disease. Therefore, you should try to persuade your loved one to join such a support group.

Another aspect to remember is choosing the correct therapy for your loved one. Experts suggest a multidisciplinary approach to therapy including:

  • Occupational
  • Psychological
  • Speech
  • Physical counseling

This will help your loved one handle the symptoms of Parkinson’s more effectively.

In the end, start thinking about your loved one’s situation once the disease has progressed and he or she is not able to live alone anymore. Perhaps moving your loved one to a senior care community is something you should begin to consider in order to be prepared for what the future brings. As a result, your loved one would have the chance to enjoy his or her sunset years in a safe, senior-friendly and caring community. Despite having Parkinson’s Disease, your loved one’s quality of life does not need to decrease after all.

For more information on Parkinson’s Disease, please visit the National Library of Medicine.