Caring for a Loved One with Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease affects nearly 1 million people in the United States, and according to the Parkinson’s Foundation, doctors diagnose almost 60,000 people each year. April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. It’s the perfect time to learn about the condition and educate yourself on ways to help a loved one if they live with the disease.
What is Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive condition affecting the nervous system. During the early stages of Parkinson’s, individuals may not experience any symptoms other than mild tremors. As the disease develops, people may experience difficulty moving, muscle stiffness, speech complications, and impaired balance. Parkinson’s disease can also cause involuntary movements such as blinking and twitching.
Parkinson’s develops when specific neurons in the brain that produce dopamine break down. Dopamine changes the brain’s activity level, and not enough dopamine can cause impaired movement and other Parkinson’s disease symptoms. Research is still trying to determine what causes the neuron breakdown, but top risk factors include a genetic mutation and exposure to certain environmental toxins. Parkin’s is also more common to develop in people after 60 and those with a family history of the condition.
Tips for Caring for a Loved One with Parkinson’s
If you’re a family caregiver with a loved one who has Parkinson’s disease, consider the following to help you provide the best possible care.
Invest in gadgets and household items to make life easier
Parkinson’s disease can make it challenging to complete daily tasks such as dressing and personal grooming. Help your loved one complete these tasks more efficiently with accessible items such as electric toothbrushes, Velcro apparel, shower benches, and easy-grip utensils. Also, make sure all of the things they use most often are stored somewhere with easy access, so they don’t have to dig through drawers or climb a step stool.
Don’t let their condition discourage them
Parkinson’s disease creates boundaries that may deter your loved one from participating in their favorite activities. Remain positive and help them build confidence in their abilities. You can also reach out to occupational and physical therapists to help manage their symptoms and offer to accompany them to sessions, so they feel more comfortable.
Allow them to care for themselves
It’s hard watching someone you love struggle with basic things such as dressing, walking, and eating. And while you may feel compelled to help them with everything, try to give them space to do things independently. People with Parkinson’s can still do many things, so let your loved ones take their time and complete tasks. If you notice their frustration, approach them with empathy and ask if they’d like your help before providing your assistance. And of course, if they ask, don’t be afraid to step in and help.
Ask for help
Caring for an aging loved one is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. It’s even more challenging to care for someone with a progressive condition like Parkinson’s. If you’re feeling overwhelmed as a family caregiver, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You can talk to family and friends to arrange a schedule, so no one person takes on too much work. Or you can consider hiring a part-time or temporary caregiver to assist with tasks such as laundry, personal grooming, or medication reminders.
How Visiting Angels Can Help
If you’re caring for a senior loved one with Parkinson’s and need assistance helping them at home, the team at Visiting Angels can help. Our passionate caregivers provide non-medical tasks such as light housekeeping, cooking, mobility assistance, transportation, medication reminders, personal grooming, and more. We also offer respite services to provide temporary relief for family caregivers who need to reset and recharge. Our Grand Junction office serves those in Mesa Country, Co. If you’d like to learn more about our services, you can complete this online form or call us at 970.254.8888.