Nearly one million Americans are living with Parkinson’s Disease and around 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive nervous disorder that destroys the dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. With PD, a large part of the brain’s substantia nigra, largely responsible for producing dopamine, begins to lose function. Dopamine is a critical neurotransmitter responsible for regulating and controlling the movement of smooth muscle in the body. The lack of dopamine slows down the message transmission responsible for movement thus causing involuntary and erratic motions.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease is difficult to diagnose directly as there is no specific test to detect the condition. It is a slowly developing disease and takes several years before noticeable symptoms are observed, thus it is more common and severe among seniors.
The following are some common symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease:
Tremors are involuntary muscle contractions that lead to shaky movement in many parts of the body, especially in the arms, legs, hands, and neck. Tremors may be regular or occur randomly, but it is not present in all PD cases.
2. Limb Rigidity
As Parkinson’s Disease progresses, it becomes difficult to bend the back, arms, and legs. This makes performing many daily tasks difficult. Those with PD may also experience muscle cramp pain.
3. Bradykinesia (Slow Movement)
This is a major symptom of Parkinson’s Disease. With bradykinesia, people cannot move their body as fast as they normally do. The muscle becomes slowly coordinated and less responsive.
4. Decreased Facial Expression
Gestures such as smiling, and frowning, become difficult with PD which make emotional and facial expressions more limited when interacting with others.
5. Shuffling Walk
In some late-stages of the disease, those suffering from PD may feel as if their feet are glued to the ground when attempting to walk.
Other symptoms of PD include monotonous speech, swollen feet, and unsteady balance. Seniors with late stage PD may be unable to focus and pay attention. It can also affect memory and thoughts.
Managing Parkinson’s Disease
Several drugs such as Levodopa, anticholinergic drugs, and dopamine agonists are used to manage PD. Levodopa is converted to dopamine, anticholinergic drugs block involuntary muscle movements, and agonists mimic dopamine in the brain.
Tips for Living with Parkinson’s Disease
In addition to doctor’s recommendations, there are certain things you or your loved one can do to improve your health and motor symptoms if diagnosed with PD.
1. Monitor Depression
Depression is prevalent among patients with PD. You should talk to your doctor if you suspect that your or your loved one is suffering from depression, so they can be treated. Depression often makes PD treatments less effective.
2. Plan Periods of Rest
Ideally, you should have one or more rest periods in a day. Rest can improve circulation and help with swollen feet and ankles.
3. Cut Down on Heavy Tasks
Engage in simple tasks so you have enough energy to last throughout the day. Avoid pushing or lifting heavy objects that can strain your body.
4. Plan Your Activities
Try to plan your daily chores or activities ahead of time and spread them out throughout the day. Also, rest for about 30 minutes after meals before engaging in any activity.
5. Update Your Clothing and Grooming Routines
You should sit down while putting on clothes or grooming to maintain balance. Loose fitting clothes with open ends are preferable. Slip-on shoes are also easier to wear. Consider using an electric toothbrush to help manage motor problems. Use combs with large finger loops for better grip.
Exercise can help to maintain balance, strength, and mobility and also prevents depression. You should only engage in light exercises such as yoga and walking to avoid overstretching your body.
While experiences may vary, PD presents some unique challenges as it progresses. This often means that seniors need help to navigate their daily routines. AmeriCare Home Care have professionally-trained caregivers that can assist your loved one with Parkinson’s Disease. Our caregivers will help identify their needs and can assist with movement and care. Caregivers can also encourage independence by being patient and supportive so people with PD are motivated to stay active.
Caregivers are also needed when your loved one needs supervision to engage in exercises and activities that improve mobility. Parkinson’s Disease is not curable, but you can greatly improve the quality of life of your loved one by getting them the help they need. Reach out today to your local AmeriCare!