Parkinson’s disease is a serious condition that involves the progressive degeneration of nerve cells (neurons) in the brain that control movement. The Parkinson’s Foundation points out some important statistics about this disease:
Parkinson’s disease affects about 1 million people in the United States – more than the number of people with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) combined
- About 60,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year
- Parkinson’s disease becomes more common as people age, but about 4% of people with the disease are diagnosed before 50
- Parkinson’s disease is 1.5 times more likely to affect men than women
This condition can be absolutely debilitating to people who have it. But with careful planning and coordination with medical and in-home care professionals, people living with Parkinson’s disease can maintain their independence and activity longer than those without this additional support. To help make that happen, it’s important to know the signs to watch out for and when it’s time to get help for your loved one who has Parkinson’s disease.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
Be on the lookout for the following movement-related symptoms in your loved one:
- Slow movements
- Tremors, or shaky movements
- Excessive muscle stiffness
- Permanent muscle contractures – for example, if your loved one bends their elbow and then can’t straighten it back out
- The signs of Parkinson’s disease are subtle, so it’s easy for the condition to start slowly and not get noticed for some time. That means it can be misdiagnosed as something else or not diagnosed at all until the disease has had a chance to progress.
As the disease progresses, your loved one may have trouble walking or balancing on their own. That’s because Parkinson’s disease affects the area of the brain that controls movement and balance. Your loved one may believe they’re standing upright when they really aren’t. The result is an increase in falls, as well as trouble with activities of daily living, such as bathing, cooking and going to the bathroom.
Related reading: What Do You Know About Parkinson’s Disease?
When Is It Time to Get Help for a Loved One Who Has Parkinson’s Disease?
Any of the symptoms we’ve discussed are red flags for you to bring up with your loved one or their primary care doctor. It’s best to get a Parkinson’s diagnosis early on in the disease process. Although there’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, doctors can prescribe medications to slow the disease’s progression.
However, it’s common for people who haven’t been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease to chalk these symptoms up to the aging process. Though you may be concerned if your loved one is taking hours to get ready in the morning when they once took mere minutes, they may brush you off with a gruff, “Leave me alone. I’m just getting slower, but I’m fine.”
In these cases, it’s a good idea to document the occurrences you notice. Consider making a short recording on your smartphone with the date, the time and a short summary of what happened, such as: “Dad tripped again this morning. He fell while getting out of bed because he couldn’t get his foot to work.” These notes can provide vital evidence to help doctors determine if your loved one really does have Parkinson’s disease.
If your loved one is diagnosed with the disease, work closely with their doctor on treatment methods, home safety measures, etc. The doctor can also provide valuable input on when it might be time to get your loved one some additional help at home.
How Can In-Home Care Help a Person Living With Parkinson’s Disease?
If your loved one is otherwise independent but is having trouble at home because of the effects of Parkinson’s disease, skilled in-home nursing care like that provided by BrightStar Care can help keep them safe and in their home as long as possible.
Specially trained caregivers with experience dealing with clients who have Parkinson’s disease can help slow the disease’s progression in your loved one. They can bring activities such as physical and occupational therapy into the client’s home. These activities are key to successful management of the disease, and having them in the home environment lessens the risk to your loved one because of any balance or falling issues they might have. As the disease progresses, your loved one’s in-home care team can bring in various aids to help them adjust, such as adaptive silverware that is specially made for people living with Parkinson’s disease.
It’s often challenging to have a conversation with a loved one about bringing a caregiver into the home, especially if they’ve been living independently for some time. I recommend first speaking with someone your loved one trusts — such as a clergy member, doctor, friend or other family member — and getting buy-in from that person before approaching your loved one. Use the following example to help guide you: “Listen, Dad, I know you’re doing great, but I’ve talked to Pastor Bob, and we’ve found a company that offers the kind of service that can help you with your daily routine. We can have them come do a visit to see if there’s something they can do to help you. Can we just talk with them?”
We offer a free living room visit, where a registered nurse and a care team member visit your loved one’s home to get to know them and discuss their unique care needs. Older loved ones, especially gentlemen, tend to worry about finances, so this can help set their minds at ease.
When you get the care team in the door, listen to how they suggest helping your loved one deal with and adapt to living with Parkinson’s disease. If you like what you hear, continue the conversation with your loved one. “Dad, now that we’ve heard what they have to say, how about we try them out for two weeks or a month? I really need help making sure you have your meals, and I can do this with their help.” It’s critical to respect your loved one’s choices in this matter, but showing how this choice will help you, not just your older loved one, is key to getting the care they need.
Make sure you also talk about in-home care’s importance for your loved one’s independence. “Dad, if we bring these folks in to help you, we can keep you here at home for as long as possible.” That’s a huge deciding factor for many clients living with Parkinson’s disease. It makes people feel good to have their own bed, blanket, pet and other comforts of home.
Related reading: Medication and Exercise: Keys to Managing Parkinson’s Disease at Home
Parkinson’s Disease Care Tailored to Your Loved One
Our teams offer different layers of in-home care that they can adjust depending on how much help your loved one needs. Maybe your dad just needs rides to the doctor and some minor assistance around the house. If so, companion care may be the right balance of independence and support. If your loved one needs more intensive care, a certified nursing assistant can help. The registered nurse overseeing your loved one’s care will constantly reassess their situation to make sure they’re getting the care they need.
When it comes to Parkinson’s care, consider the analogy of pain management. If you wait until the pain gets really bad, it can take twice as long to bring it under control. It’s easier to get help sooner when the pain isn’t as bad. The same goes for a loved one who has Parkinson’s disease. If you wait to get help, it takes longer to get their symptoms under control, and the disease is progressing the longer you wait.
Our goal for every client living with Parkinson’s disease is to help them maintain their independence, stay active as long as possible and incorporate our care into the plan of care created by their primary care doctor. Call 866-618-7827 or contact a BrightStar Care® home care agency near you to learn more about how we can help your loved one get the in-home care they need for Parkinson’s disease.