If you or a loved one suffers from Parkinson’s disease, you know how deeply frustrating and isolating it can feel to slowly lose control of your mobility and independence … but you’re not alone. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, it is estimated that one million Americans and between four to six million people worldwide currently have Parkinson’s disease. In the United States alone, as many as 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.
Parkinson’s is a disorder of the central nervous system affecting the nerve cells in the brain that send signals to initiate and control movement. The progression of the disease varies by person, and symptoms can include:
- Trembling and shaking of the hands, arms, legs and face
- Stiffness or rigidity of muscles in the limbs and neck
- Lack of usual arm swing when walking
- Slowness of movement or freezing when attempting to move
- Impaired balance and coordination
- Lack of natural facial expressions, blinking of the eyes and eye contact
- Changes in speech including monotone and mumbling, and trouble swallowing
- Stooped posture that may appear similar to Osteoporosis
While Parkinson’s is most commonly seen in seniors, it can affect young adults as well. The actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed at the age of 30, and the professional boxer Muhammed Ali was diagnosed at the age of 42. Presently, there is no known cure for Parkinson’s, but your doctor can prescribe medications and treatment options to help to alleviate the frequency and intensity of symptoms.
If you’re caring for someone with Parkinson’s, try to be patient and listen to your loved one’s concerns and wishes. Remember, it is likely more frustrating to them than it is to you. Focus on adapting your loved one’s living arrangement to ease daily activities and maximize independence. Suggestions include:
- Removing tripping hazards, such as rugs and cords
- Using a cane, walker or wheelchair
- Arranging furniture so it is easy to maneuver through
- Installing grab bars in bathrooms near toilets, tubs and sinks
- Using specially designed wide-grip utensils, pens, etc.
- Wearing slip-on or Velcro shoes and clothing with elastic waistbands and minimal buttons, zippers, etc.
- Exercising in water to alleviate stress on the joints while still benefiting one’s health
- Watching protein intake, as it may interfere with medications’ effectiveness
As with any life-changing illness, coping with Parkinson’s can put a strain on your relationships. You may consider joining a local support group or an online forum and/or enlisting the services of a professionally trained caregiver, such as a Home Helpers caregiver, to provide personal care and assistance so you can focus on living life to the fullest and enjoying time with loved ones.