April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

It seems that in today’s world, nearly everyone knows someone with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). It could be grandparent or one of your parents, a relative, or a dear family friend. April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month and so we want to dedicate this article to the millions of families who are dealing with PD.

We will explain some of the facts about the illness and we’ll highlight how your local HomeWell Senior Care provider can provide a tremendous amount of help and assistance for families that have someone with Parkinson’s.

About Parkinson’sWoman smiling at an elderly man

Parkinson’s is largely a disease of the elderly, although some people can be stricken with it at an early age, such as noted actor Michael J. Fox who was only 20 when he was diagnosed with PD. But the majority of sufferers are over age 65, and men are one and a half times more likely to be diagnosed than women. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation states that more than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with PD. Currently 1 million Americans and 10 million worldwide suffer from it.

Scientists know that Parkinson’s happens when certain neurons in a part of the mid-brain begin to die, but they don’t understand at all why this dying off process occurs. These neurons produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter necessary for the brain to communicate to muscles in the body. Researchers believe that a combination of genetics and environmental factors contribute to triggering the disease, as they have noted a higher incidence of the PD among rural inhabitants and people who are exposed to high doses of pesticides.

PD is a progressive degenerative disease, though its symptoms and stages differ from individual to individual. In general, it starts slowly with feelings of stiffness, muscle aches, and joint pain. In many people, the next stage involves developing a constant tremor of one hand or leg. Other early symptoms often include problems with walking, lack of coordination and balance, swallowing difficulties, and having a quiet voice. Some people develop depression and insomnia. In its later stages, PD can cause dementia.

Treatments for PD are improving significantly decade by decade. Modern drug therapies have increased in effectiveness and are often able to control the tremor and shaking. But eventually, as more dopamine-producing brain neurons die off, using drugs becomes ineffective at alleviating the symptoms, and the disease progresses. The good news is that scientists foresee being able to use gene therapy, stem cell transplants, and protective agents for neurons to halt or reverse the progress of PD. This could happen within a decade.

Available Resources

PD patients can live a high quality of life for years at home. In the beginning, they may need occasional assistance from a family member to perform certain actions like buttoning clothing, writing, and opening bottles. But they can continue to drive, enjoy activities, and live a fairly regular life. Consider actor Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s at age 20, but has continued for more than three decades to perform and spearhead research into PD.

As the disease progresses though, many senior PD sufferers start to need consistent help with the five activities of daily living—dressing, bathing, eating, toileting, and walking. Using a fork or spoon can be difficult if they have a very bad hand tremor. Standing in the shower or getting into a tub can be challenging if they don’t have good balance.

The biggest problem is that many PD patients are at risk of falling down and injuring themselves because they can’t walk easily. They develop a condition called Bradykinesia, which means slowness of movement, when their brain cannot transmit instructions to their limbs. They may try to walk, but executing the maneuver takes a lot of time. As a result, they shuffle, hardly picking up their feet. With poor balance and this inability to plant their feet, seniors with PD often trip and fall on the ground.

It is in these stages of PD when families can benefit greatly from hiring a HomeWell senior care provider to be with their loved one as many hours as needed. Our staff of care providers are highly experienced in working with Parkinson’s patients. They can help your loved one shower, get dressed for the day or for bedtime, and eat their meals. They can assist them in walking, getting into a car, and continuing to live a quality life for many more years to come. Our HomeWell staff are trained to recognize the challenges of Parkinson’s and will treat your loved with patience, consideration, and respect. And they are also there to help family members get the time they may need for themselves after a day at work.

At HomeWell, we are happy to conduct a consultation with your family if you have a loved one with PD. We can review our capabilities with you, and assess the number of hours your loved one with PD might need our services. We can help you with this important decision to ensure that your family makes the best choice to get quality care for your loved one.

Get Involved

If you have someone in your home with PD, why not get involved in any way you can? You can contribute your time or money to one of these great research and information organizations or you can tap into their expertise to learn as much as possible about PD.

Many of these organizations sponsor local support groups you can join, either to learn from others or to provide support to people who need your expertise. Just browse their websites to find a local support group or do a Google search for “Local Parkinson’s Support Groups” to find one in your area.