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The 5 Stages of Parkinson’s Disease

Celebrities—such as Muhammad Ali, Michael J. Fox, and Janet Reno—may have helped you become more aware of Parkinson’s Disease. Even still, there remains a general lack of understanding about the disorder in terms of functional aspects and care-giving considerations.

Parkinson’s is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects over 1.5 million Americans. The illness eventually progresses to disability, although the duration of each stage, the care needs, and the signs and symptoms can vary from person to person.

The five stages of Parkinson’s Disease lend insight into what to expect:

Stage 1

  • Signs/Symptoms – Typically mild; shaking in one hand or limb visible; slight changes in balance, posture, facial expressions
  • Living and Care Considerations – Routine activities tend to take additional time and effort

Stage 2

  • Signs/Symptoms – Tremors affecting both sides of the body; increased challenges maintaining balance when standing/walking
  • Living and Care Considerations – Routine tasks often require assistance to complete

Stage 3

  • Signs/Symptoms – Symptoms tend to increase and become intense; posture and movement increasingly stiff, slow
  • Living and Care Considerations – Daily living activities and personal care requires assistance

Stage 4

  • Signs/Symptoms – All symptoms tend to be severe
  • Living and Care Considerations – Ongoing assistance is needed; unsafe to live alone

Stage 5

  • Signs/Symptoms – Likely unable to stand or walk; speech and swallowing may be severely impaired
  • Living and Care Considerations – Constant nursing care is needed

Additional Resources

The following websites offer helpful and insightful information. Joining a local support group or an online forum or blog may also be worth exploring.


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