What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, you may have questions about what the condition is, how it affects people, and what can be done about it. Parkinson’s disease affects the nervous system, causing tremors or difficulty of movement. Over time, the condition will gradually become more pronounced, with symptoms increasing in severity. The good news is that with medication, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be managed effectively for most people.
What Are the Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease?
The most common and well-known symptom of Parkinson’s is a tremor that usually begins in one hand. While symptoms may vary based on the severity of the condition, your elderly loved one may experience any of the following:
- Tremors or rubbing of the thumb and forefinger
- Slower movement
- Shorter steps or dragging feet
- Stiffness and limited range of motion
- Posture or balance problems
- Changes in speech patterns, including slurring, slowing, hesitations, or lack of inflection
- Inability to perform automatic motions such as swinging arms while walking
Family members may not notice symptoms right away, especially if they don’t live nearby. However, you may notice changes in speech when speaking on the phone, or you may notice changes in handwriting, such as letters becoming smaller and more cramped. As soon as symptoms appear, seniors should see a doctor to receive a diagnosis and to learn about treatment options. Diagnosis will be based on the doctor’s physical examination, assessment of symptoms, and family history.
Can Parkinson’s Disease Be Treated?
Research suggests that the cause of Parkinson’s disease may be genetic. While no cure is currently available for the condition, in most cases Parkinson’s disease can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes. A doctor can prescribe drugs to stimulate the area of the brain that has been affected in order to greatly reduce symptoms. In addition to medication, seniors may benefit from making changes such as:
- Fiber-Rich Diet–Parkinson’s disease often causes physical complications like constipation. Eating a diet that is high in fiber and that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables will help prevent discomfort.
- Exercise–Because Parkinson’s affects balance, exercise can help by strengthening muscles and improving the body’s responses. It’s important not to move too quickly, however, since reflexes may not be as sharp as they once were.
- Physical Therapy, opens in new tab–In some cases, exercise may prove to be too dangerous or difficult without additional help. A physical therapist can work with elderly people to find an exercise within the bounds of their physical limitations, and can also provide recommendations about the most beneficial forms of exercise for the condition.
- Hiring a caregiver–If family members don’t live close by or if the elderly person needs assistance with activities like walking, dressing, or bathing, an in-home caregiver can provide the assistance needed. He or she can also prepare healthy meals, offer medication reminders, and provide transportation to medical appointments.
What Steps Should You Take Next?
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease should be evaluated by a doctor to rule out any other possible causes. Once you have a diagnosis, begin making gradual changes to your elderly loved one’s routine so that he or she can maintain as much mobility and normal activity as possible. While Parkinson’s disease can be an intimidating diagnosis, the medical community offers a lot of information and help for families of those with the condition in order to help promote the best possible quality of life.An in-home caregiver may be the best option for helping your loved one remain active. The caregiver can also provide regular updates about whether or not symptoms have improved, giving you the information you need to make decisions about future treatments.
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