For those living with Parkinson’s disease (PD), their safety and quality of life depend on the strength of their support group. When patients, family and caregivers work together as a team, patients can lead full, rich lives despite the disease process. How can patients and family members come to function as a cohesive team?
Though there is still much to learn, the medical field is continually making exciting breakthroughs in the research and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. To maintain a high quality of living, both patients and their caregivers should stay up to date on the latest information and research. In addition, all parties involved should be alert to the diverse signs and symptoms that indicate the disease’s progress.
Tips for patients: The primary safety concern for those with Parkinson’s is the risk of falls. Those with PD gradually develop a slow, shuffling, unsteady gait that makes it easy to trip and fall. Patients can protect themselves by being especially careful when they are standing up. Being aware of hazards, such as wrinkled carpets and using a cane or a walker can also prevent most accidents.
Ideas for caregivers: The biggest safety goal of caregivers is providing a safe environment that presents no fall hazards. Every member of the family can cooperate to ensure that living areas are clean, uncluttered and obstruction free.
Key symptoms to watch: Falls and near-misses should not be brushed off as insignificant. Many patients ignore these events, perhaps viewing them as meaningless accidents. However, an increase in falls can indicate a progression of the disease and the need to reevaluate treatment.
Tips for patients: Parkinson’s doesn’t just provoke physical symptoms. Up to 80 percent of patients will eventually experience some degree of Parkinson’s dementia. However, being well organized can help manage even the most severe symptoms. It’s a good idea to keep an agenda to help track important events. Even simple, everyday activities, such as meal times and medication doses, can be included if necessary.
Ideas for caregivers: Though it could be unnecessary – or even upsetting to the patient – for caregivers to follow behind and track every decision, family members would do well to keep a copy of the patient’s agenda and medication list. Caregivers can make it as easy as possible for the patient to stay oriented; for example, clocks and calendars can be placed liberally around the house. In addition, keeping track of doctor’s appointments, including the transportation to and from the office, might become the responsibility of the caregivers.
Key symptoms to watch: Common mental effects include forgetfulness, anxiety, depression, and behavioral changes. When new symptoms are promptly investigated by a neurologist or other specialist, they are much more manageable.
Tips for patients: Though there may be some functional limitations early on, patients who remain active can stay independent well into the disease process. An effort can be made to perform all normal activities of daily living unassisted. Staying active and maintaining motor skills will help patients adjust to the disease process as it progresses. Though some tasks may require more thought and time, staying largely independent is a realistic goal.
Ideas for caregivers: Since patients are generally most content when they maintain their independence, it’s best to resist the urge to take care of every little detail. However, assistance can still be given. One way to do so is to ensure patients follow an appropriate medication schedule that optimizes independence; for example, caregivers can make sure that antiparkinsonian medications are taken before meals so patients can feed themselves unassisted.
Key symptoms to watch: Is the patient struggling with tasks that used to be simple, such as eating and dressing themselves? Though such progression is inevitable, attention to detail will help those involved make adjustments to their routine and plan of care.
For both patients and family members, expert help can ease the load of dealing with Parkinson’s disease at home. If you or a loved one in the Puget Sound area is suffering from PD, Fedelta Home Care can help. With well over a decade of home care expertise, we can help your family plan for every aspect of Parkinson’s home care, including arranging for caregivers to visit your home on a part or full-time basis. Contact us today to learn more about our disease management services.