If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s you’re not alone. Around 60,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed annually. Parkinson’s isn’t an easy diagnosis to receive, because currently there’s not a cure for this disease. Thankfully, according to the Cleveland Clinic, most patients are able to maintain a good quality of life through medication prescriptions and possibly surgical procedures. Providing home health care is also an essential part of maintaining quality of life as the Parkinson’s disease stages progress over time.
You probably have a lot of questions about this disease. Having knowledge will help you and your loved one prepare for the future. Here’s how Parkinson’s progresses, what you can expect over time, and when you should consider bringing in a home care specialist.
Parkinson’s is a disease that targets the nervous system and weakens a person’s ability to control their own movement. If you’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s before the age of 50, research shows that you may have inherited the gene mutations that predispose you to this disease from a family member. Symptoms begin to show up when the cells that produce dopamine in your brain no longer function or even die off. Dopamine is extremely important to the part of the brain that’s responsible for controlling body movement, which is why the disease expresses itself physically as difficulty moving.
The body is a complicated machine, and it’s been difficult for researchers to pinpoint why exactly Parkinson’s shows up in patients. There’s still much research to be conducted in order to find the disease’s trigger. Researchers have found a potential link between Parkinson’s and ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The closer scientists and doctors get to cracking the code on inherited ALS, the sooner the world may have more answers about Parkinson’s.
When doctors discuss this disease they usually break the progression down into four Parkinson’s disease stages. People respond differently to the disease, so there’s not a set time frame within which the stages play out. Here are some of the symptoms to look for in each stage.
You may not even catch Parkinson’s during the early stages, because it often doesn’t interfere with your day-to-day life. It may present as regular signs of aging, like tiredness or anxiousness. Your family or friends may notice it’s harder for you to get in and out of seats, a general stiffness when you walk, or that your handwriting has changed.
This is generally when Parkinson’s is diagnosed because it’s started to express itself as physical tremors and issues with balancing. You may even find yourself falling more often. You’ll still be able to be mostly independent at this time, although tasks that you used to find easy—like washing the dishes or putting on clothes—will increase in difficulty. Depending on how many falls you’ve had, it might be time to start thinking about home health care.
You will most likely need a walker to help you balance and get around at this stage, because your movement has been so compromised. Staying at home by yourself isn’t a good idea when you have mid-late stage Parkinson’s. It’s time to hire at-home assistance for your safety and convenience.
As you reach an advanced stage of Parkinson’s, you may experience stiffness in the legs, resulting in freezing upon standing. At this point, a wheelchair is required and you may become bedridden. In the end-stage patients experience non-motor symptoms that may include incontinence, insomnia, and dementia. Some medications may also cause hallucinations. To remain comfortable, you can look into full-time nursing care while you remain at home.
If you notice something off about a loved one’s ability to move, take a trip to the doctor, especially if there’s a family history of Parkinson’s. Like any disease, it’s better to catch it earlier rather than later. Ensuring that your loved one consistently and correctly takes their prescribed medication for Parkinson’s will help curb some of their symptoms. If medication isn’t working, talk to their doctor about available procedures, like deep brain stimulation.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s you may need to assist them with cooking, daily activities like getting dressed and going shopping. Be honest with yourself about whether you’re able to provide the consistent daily care that your loved one requires as the disease progresses, and seek help from the best home care in Seattle, or wherever you live.