April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services, approximately 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in a typical year. But despite its prevalence and its public association with beloved celebrities, there’s quite a lot that the average person doesn’t know about this condition. If you have a family member who is facing a PD diagnosis, the best thing you can do is to learn more about this disease. That way, you’ll be in a better position to develop Parkinson’s care plans and to help them get the help they need.
Parkinson’s is a chronic and progressive disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and make activities like walking, talking, and other daily tasks immensely difficult to perform. In simple terms, PD causes the neurons in the area of the brain known as the substantia nigra to die, which causes a lack of dopamine in the brain and results in the inability to control body movements in a healthy way. This condition is typically characterized by tremors, rigid muscles, changes in posture or walking patterns, handwriting changes, changes in speech, loss of balance, slow movement, frequent falls, and blood pressure issues that result in lightheadedness or fainting.
Frustratingly for many families, scientists are not yet sure what causes the development of Parkinson’s. While they do know that symptoms develop gradually and that older people are more likely to have this condition, they aren’t sure what actually makes those nerve cells in the brain die off. However, researchers do believe that there are genetic links (although the disease is not always hereditary) and that environmental factors may play a role. There may also be a connection between PD and other disorders like dementia and rheumatoid arthritis.
That said, there is no known way to prevent Parkinson’s Disease as of yet. There is also no known cure. However, early diagnosis and various treatment options can reduce the severity of symptoms and improve quality of life for a longer period of time.
Parkinson’s Disease management plays a pivotal role in ensuring patients can maintain their overall health later in life. Medications are often part of Parkinson’s care plans, as these can help the brain to produce more dopamine and consequently manage more serious symptoms (such as tremors and problems with walking or movement). Some physicians may recommend surgical procedures, including deep brain stimulation, in advanced cases wherein patients may not respond to medications. Lifestyle changes such as adoption of a healthy diet and regular exercise can also have a positive effect. Some Parkinson’s care plans may involve alternative or holistic treatments, like massage, tai chi, yoga, meditation, pet therapy, and more.
Although your loved one may be able to manage with your assistance for a while, many people require in-home care or nursing interventions for Parkinson’s Disease. Securing assistance from professional caretakers can help to prevent patient falls and ensure medical treatments are being performed while prohibiting familial caregiver burnout.
It’s not always easy to know when to bring others into your Parkinson’s care plan. But because this disease is progressive, it’s vital to plan ahead. PD patients may have needs that go beyond what many older people require for in-home care, so it’s essential for loved ones to develop a Parkinson’s long term care plan with a reputable provider to promote longevity, safety, and overall health.
To learn more about our care plans for Parkinson’s Disease patients or how we can help your family, please contact us today.