Roughly one million people in the United States have Parkinson’s Disease, with an additional million cases reported worldwide. Parkinson’s is a baffling neurodegenerative disorder with no known cause, and at the present time there isn’t a cure. Many patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s are elderly, which is certainly concerning if you have aging in place relatives or friends. April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time for you to learn more about the disease. Here are 5 Parkinson’s facts that you may not be aware of.
1. Famous People Get Parkinson’s Disease
Many families are touched by someone with Parkinson’s in one way or another. Here are several famous people who currently live with, or who once lived with, the disease:
- Actors Michael J. Fox, Estelle Getty and Billy Connolly
- Musicians Linda Ronstadt and Johnny Cash
- Former Alabama Governor George Wallace
- Boxer Muhammad Ali
- Christian evangelist Billy Graham
2. Parkinson’s Onset Can Be Subtle
Parkinson’s Disease can be sneaky and the onset subtle. If you’re an informal caregiver here’s what to watch for:
- Tremors (slight shaking) in the hands, fingers, thumbs or chin
- Small handwriting that’s unusual
- Loss of smell that can’t otherwise be explained
- Trouble moving body parts or walking
- Constipation that’s not related to medications or diet
- Voice that’s getting softer and lower
- Sleeping difficulties including restless sleep
- Stooping or hunching over
- “Masked” face that looks serious or angry for no reason
If your loved one is starting to exhibit these signs, promptly get them seen by a doctor.
3. Parkinson’s Also Affects Speech
Parkinson’s targets the dopamine-producing area of the brain that controls motor skill activities, including speech. As a result, the disease can eventually start interfering with a patient’s ability to communicate verbally. That can be frustrating for both of you, so experts recommend taking these steps to keep the lines of verbal communication open:
- Look directly into your loved one’s eyes and speak face-to-face.
- Keep distractions to a minimum.
- Use verbal and nonverbal cues that both of you understand.
- Ask questions that can be answered simply with a “yes” or “no”.
- Repeat back words or phrases that you understand. For example, “Mom, it sounds like you want me to make you some dinner now.”
- If you’re having trouble understanding what your loved one is saying, ask them to repeat themselves, spell out words or speak more slowly.
4. Parkinson’s Can Be Treated
Although no known cure for Parkinson’s exists, the disease’s progression can be slowed down with a healthy diet, regular exercise and certain medications. Most of the drugs that neurologists prescribe temporarily replenish dopamine in the brain or mimic how it acts in the body- for example, to reduce tremors. Commonly prescribed Parkinson’s medications include MAO inhibitors, levodopa and anticholinergics. If your loved one is taking a medication for the disease, compliance is crucial and be aware of potential drug interactions.
5. Caregiver Support is Available
Caring for someone with Parkinson’s can be a full-time job that comes with unique challenges. The most important fact to remember is that you don’t have to go it alone. In fact, there are numerous caregiving resources out there that can help facilitate a higher quality of life for you and your loved one. Here are some of the better ones:
- Parkinson’s support groups including online forums and social media groups
- Parkinson’s Foundation
- Family members and friends
- Community volunteers
- An in-home caregiver from a licensed home care agency
Professional In-Home Care for Seniors with Parkinson’s
Assisting an aging loved one with Parkinson’s is a labor of love, but it can also be tiring and stressful. When you need a break, contact Caring At Home. As a fully licensed and insured home care provider our well-trained caregivers can step in and support your senior so they can keep aging in place with dignity and independence. Our focus as an agency is providing the professional, compassionate care your loved one needs to ensure a higher quality of life for all family members.
While in the home, our carefully screened caregivers can perform personal care, companion care, and even live-in or 24-hour care services. To learn more about Caring At Home today, or to book a FREE in-home consultation for a senior loved one now, please visit us online.