Caring for a loved one can be challenging. From the various ways the body declines with age to the different physical and emotional medical conditions your loved one may face, it is easy to see how so many children reverse roles and become a sole caregiver of their parent. Considering an estimated one million Americans live with Parkinson's disorder, learning the signs of this condition is smart. Not only will proper understanding help you determine if your loved one is suffering with this disease of the nervous system, but it can also help you find the support needed to care for your parent properly.
The 101 on Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson's disease affects a person's nervous system, reducing mobility and limiting the ability to complete simple daily tasks. While it develops gradually, it is a progressive disorder that will become worse over time. If your parent is displaying the following symptoms, consult your doctor for Parkinson's testing:
- Tremors – A light shaking of the hands or fingers is the most common symptom of the disorder.
- Stiffness – Your parent may experience a stiffness in their muscles, resulting in pain and difficulty moving. This stiffness will cause them to walk slower than normal and struggle completing daily tasks.
- Speech Problems – Parkinson's disease will affect your parent's ability to speak, as well. Your parent may slur their words, talk faster or slower than normal, or stutter.
- Decreased Posture and Balance – Individuals with Parkinson's disease are unable to keep their posture upright, so your parent may begin slouching while sitting. In addition, they may be unable to balance properly.
- Decreased Subconscious Movements – Certain subconscious, or automatic, movements may not occur. Your parent may not be able to blink, swing their arms while walking, or show expression on their face.
While surprising to hear, there are many causes of this condition. Genetics are a common cause, so you may have other family members with Parkinson's disease. Also, exposure to certain toxic chemicals can cause Parkinson's disease in patients.
Your parent's doctor will conduct a series of tests to determine the exact cause of the Parkinson's disease. While understanding the cause of the disorder is helpful, it will not cure the disease. Medications are available to reduce or manage the symptoms of Parkinson's, but the progressive disorder cannot be reversed.
Since individuals with Parkinson's disease have limited mobility, you will need to provide care and support to your parent. Walking, bathing, eating, and other normal activities will be too difficult for your parent, so constant care is recommended.
Here are a few ways to ease the stresses of Parkinson's disease:
- Exercise – Work with a doctor to design an exercise plan for your parent. Physical therapists can strengthen your parent's muscles, improve their motor skills, and increase their self-confidence. Daily, supervised exercise can reduce the risk of falls and injuries due Parkinson's disease.
- Aids – Equipping your home with a few mobility aids is imperative for your parent's safety. Patients with Parkinson's disease will not be able to climb stairs safely. If you live in a multi-level home, consider installing a stair-lift. Chair lifts are also helpful to help your parent get in and out of their chair or bed. A company like All-Star Lifts can provide more detailed information about which kind would work best in your home.
- Safety Bars – Be sure to install safety bars in the bathroom, as well. Safety bars in the shower and near the toilet support your parent while bathing and grooming. Having these aids in place will ease your parent's anxiety and allow them independence before the disease progresses further.
- Support – Becoming a caregiver can be emotionally, physically, and financially overwhelming, so allow friends and other family members to show their support.
Parkinson's disease is a serious condition that requires professional treatment and care. Using this guide, you will have a better understanding of the condition and know the best options for caring for your parent with Parkinson's.