Tuesday , July 16 2024

Caring for Parkinson’s Disease Patients

Muhammad Ali, Michael J. Fox, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Billy Graham and Estelle Getty are among a number of famous Americans diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the nervous system disorder that disrupts body movement. Nearly 1 million Americans are living with the progressive condition, and each year, more than 50,000 people in the country are diagnosed. The chronic motor disease mainly affects older adults but can occur at any age. Michael J. Fox was diagnosed at 29 and major league baseball player Ben Petrick at age 22.
Parkinson’s disease gradually attacks nerve cells in the brain’s mid-portion, decreasing the production of dopamine, a biochemical that helps carry electrical signals to control body motion and emotional responses. Initial symptoms often present with muscle weakness, stiffness, or a slight shaking in a hand or foot. As Parkinson’s advances, a person may experience muscle rigidity, tremors, postural imbalance, gait changes and decreased facial expression.
The exact cause of Parkinson’s disease is still unknown, but a number of research studies are focusing on a combination of genetics and environmental factors (such as head trauma and exposure to certain pesticides and medications). Although there is no one standard diagnostic test to diagnose Parkinson’s, a thorough neurological exam and medical history look for classic disease signs. Patients are also tested for their response to a dopamine-producing medication. If a person experiences significant improvement with a drug that boosts the brain’s chemical neurotransmitters, then Parkinson’s is typically the diagnosis versus similar conditions, secondary parkinsonism and Parkinson’s plus syndromes.
Complications of Parkinson’s disease may include swallowing difficulties, sleep problems, bowel and bladder issues, depression, and mood changes. Comprehensive management of the movement disorder specifically addresses exercise, nutrition and medications tailored to each individual. Some patients are candidates for therapeutic surgery, including an implant of an electrode stimulator in the brain to improve motor function or a tube in the stomach for a continual supply of the gold-standard Parkinson’s drug, carbidopa/levodopa.
“Presently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but with early detection and individualized treatment, patients can live full, rewarding lives for decades after their diagnosis,” said Glenn Fechtenburg, RN Right at Home The Villages, Lake and Sumter Counties. “We have served a number of Parkinson’s clients and their caregiver families who find that a strong support system is essential in bolstering the physical limitations and emotional lulls of the disease. Parkinson’s affects not just the person diagnosed but also their entire circle of family, friends and loved ones.”
In assisting those with the neurological disorder, Fechtenburg advises that family and professional caregivers consider the following care and support approaches:
• Encourage independence. Many Parkinson’s patients can carry out regular daily functions — they just need more time to complete them. Staying active with an in-motion body is key to combating the muscle constraints of Parkinson’s.
• Stay flexible as the disease fluctuates. Throughout each day, Parkinson’s symptoms can vary as medication takes effect and the person regulates diet, activity and rest. Sometimes Parkinson’s is unpredictable, and caregivers help most by choosing to adapt to symptoms as they occur instead of expecting the patient to follow a regimented schedule.
• Determine reasonable limits. It’s best for the Parkinson’s patient and caregivers to discuss activities and lifestyle changes upfront and adjust as needed. For example, lifting heavy objects can throw off balance and cause a fall. Climbing a number of steps or a ladder is not advisable. The key is to keep active without taking on tasks that aggravate symptoms or increase risk for injury.
• Keep an eye on the emotional downside. Discouragement, anxiety, depression and apathy are common with Parkinson’s patients. The off-kilter brain messaging and physical challenges can throw off the body’s ability to stay emotionally level. Mood changes may result from the disease-fighting medications or from the personal loss of a body that does not always cooperate. A caregiver’s patience and active listening are invaluable to Parkinson’s individuals in weathering their emotions. Meeting with a psychotherapist can also help with the ongoing adjustments to the neurological disease.
For additional information on Parkinson’s disease resources, contact the National Parkinson Foundation at parkinson.org or 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636), and the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation at pdf.org or 800-457-6676.
About Right at Home
Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care and assistance to seniors and disabled adults who want to continue to live independently. Local Right at Home offices are independently owned and operated and directly employ and supervise all caregiving staff, each of whom is thoroughly screened, trained, and bonded/insured prior to entering a client’s home. Right at Home’s global office is based in Omaha, Nebraska, with offices located in 45 states nationwide and throughout the world.
For more information on Right at Home, visit About Right at Home at http://www.rightathome.net/about-us or read the Right at Home caregiving blog at http://www.rightathome.net/blog. To sign up for Right at Home’s free adult caregiving e-newsletter, Caring Right at Home, visit http://caringnews.com.
About Right at Home of The Villages, Lake and Sumter Counties
The Villages, Lake and Sumter Counties office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated. For more information, contact Right at Home of The Villages, Lake and Sumter Counties at WWW.RAHFL.com, 352-835-0101 or by email at Info@rahfl.com.

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