Community Blog

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

By Mike Jackson

Parkinson’s disease: It’s More Than Tremors

While celebrities, including Muhammad Ali, Michael J. Fox and Janet Reno have helped to increase name recognition of Parkinson’s disease, there remains a general lack of understanding about this neurological disorder in terms of functional aspects and caregiving considerations. “With an increasing number of our clients having Parkinson’s, this edition of our newsletter is dedicated to helping people gain insight about this chronic and progressive illness,” said Mike Jackson, Owner, Home Helpers of Boise.

Parkinson’s is a disorder of the central nervous system (CNS) affecting the nerve cells in the brain that send signals to initiate and control movement. With Parkinson’s, the progression of the disease varies by person and the symptoms can occur frequently or infrequently and may be severe or mild.

In addition to trembling which is often noticeable in the hands, arms, legs and face, other lesser known signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s, many of which are more common in the later stages of the disease, may include:

  • 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.Unsteadiness and 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.

When Parkinson’s impacts a person, in addition to emotional support, care needs increase over time as do safety concerns. Initially, people may feel conspicuous and self-conscious in public because they cannot control tremors. In addition, fine motors skills associated with daily living activities, including eating, drinking, dressing, bathing and writing can present challenges and frustrations. As symptoms worsen over time, the need for caregiving assistance increases to address safety concerns and provide support with independent living and personal care activities.  

As with any life-changing illness, relationships with a spouse and adult children often become strained. “Whenever possible, we encourage families to discuss their preferences, values and limitations,” Kimberly Stewart added. “Many families would prefer to focus their time on the relationship and offering emotional support and have we provide assistance with the day-to-day living activities. At Home Helpers, we are committed to helping make life easier for our clients and their families by helping them live life to the fullest.”    

The Stages of Parkinson’s Disease

The five stages of Parkinson’s disease can help people have an idea of what to expect over time. For more information, visit www.parkinson.org. Please note, the signs, symptoms, care needs and duration of each stage can vary from person to person. 

 

Signs/Symptoms

Living and Care Considerations

Stage 1

•   Typically mild symptoms

•   Shaking in one hands or limb often visible.

•   Slight changes in balance, posture and expressions.

Routine activities tend to take additional time and effort.

Stage 2

•   Tremors affect limbs hands, arms and legs on both sides.

•   Challenges maintaining balance when standing/walking. 

Routine tasks often require assistance to complete.

Stage 3

•   Symptoms tend to increase and become intense.

•   Posture and movement increasingly stiff and slow.

Daily living activities and personal care requires assistance. 

Stage 4

•   All symptoms tend to be severe.

 

Ongoing assistance is needed. Unsafe to live alone.

Stage 5

•   Likely unable to stand or walk.

•   Speech and swallowing may be severely impaired. 

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. 

The Michael J. Fox Foundation - http://www.michaeljfox.org