Caregiving for Parkinson’s Takes Patience and Perception
The prevalence of Parkinson’s in our society today continues to grow as people are living longer. How can we improve the quality of life for people struggling with Parkinson’s Disease and aging simultaneously? Obviously when Parkinson’s symptoms begin to manifest themselves and a diagnosis is made, changes in the home environment and the daily routine need to occur. More importantly, due to the daily variability of the disease in each individual, monitoring of those symptoms and their impact on the timing of meals and medications become vital! Combined with the safety risk due to falls, and the need for coordinating multi-disciplined therapies, things can quickly become overwhelming for the patient as well as the caregiving spouse or adult children challenged with these issues.
Often patients and their families dealing with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) seek long term homecare as an immediate solution once a serious fall occurs, with the subsequent hospital visit, time spent in rehab, and finally the transition back to “home-sweet-home.” Tremors, rigidity, loss of balance, depression, cognitive impairment, and other PD symptoms can make life increasingly difficult for those challenged with PD, but can become even more frustrating to deal with for family members who do not know when to lend a helping hand or when to hold back. An educated and experienced caregiver can work with the PD patient and family members to insure a successful situation at home with an optimal outcome. As the disease progresses, so do the obstacles: making a meal, taking a bath, even writing a letter can be a challenge for Parkinson’s patients, and of course the risk for falls gradually grows more serious. A helping hand to encourage exercise and keep a watchful eye on the progression of symptoms, medications and their side effects can have a tremendous impact on the daily health and wellness of the patient, as well as protect their safety.
Training and experience in emergency response, as well as PD appropriate education for caregivers dealing with Parkinson’s patients can prove invaluable. Of the utmost concern is safety while walking, to prevent falls and cut down on hospital or rehab readmits. You cannot rush, push or pull someone with PD no matter how frustrated you get – realize they are even more frustrated than you are! Of course, safety precautions also include being alert to medication interactions, dosage and side effects. Diligence regarding timetables for meals and medication is a must, and attention to nutrition and hydration is important. “On time, every time" is a crucial concept for Parkinson's: pills must be organized, and reminders set for when they should be taken. Patience with daily communication is important because speech is often slow or slurred. Rest periods should be encouraged just as much as exercise.
Depression and withdrawal are common, so socialization and emotional support become imperative. Schedule regular visits to a local Parkinson’s support group, and coordinate along with regular visits to the physician and therapist!
The symptoms of PD are sometimes mistaken as the symptoms of the normal aging process. If identified early on, the progression of PD can be manageable through therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes like increased exercise and mobility. There is no cure, but research has shown that PD patients who take control of the disease and their treatment, instead of letting it control them, can enhance their daily quality of life and feeling of independence! An educated caregiver with patience and perception, can make a contribution as well, so you and your loved ones can “thrive, not just survive.”
Additional educational resources are available online at http://www.parkinson.org/.
Irv Seldin, JD, President and Owner, Visiting Angels of the Palm Beaches, www.VisitingAngels.com/PalmBeaches