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Parkinson's


In working with patients who suffer from Parkinson’s, it is important to understand the nature of the disease in order to recognize symptoms and empathize with their associated behaviors.  The diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease comes with the presence of one or more of the following that has affected the motor system: bradykinesia, resting tremor, postural instability, or rigidity.  In addition, there are other non-motor symptoms that affect many people and are increasingly recognized by doctors as important to treating the disease.  It is important to note that each person will experience these systems differently.

 


Understanding Parkinson’s

Parkinson's disease affects the way one moves; it may also affect one’s motor skills. It occurs when there is dysfunction with certain nerve cells in the brain.

When functioning properly, these nerve cells make an important chemical called dopamine. Dopamine sends signals to the part of your brain that controls movement. It prompts one’s muscles to move smoothly and provides control over their function. Parkinson’s causes these nerve cells to breakdown and reduces the flow of dopamine critical to proper function. Without enough dopamine, it is difficult to control the body’s movements.

Parkinson’s is progressive, which means it gets worse over time. This progression is often gradual, however, and can take many years to fully run its course.  Modern science has worked diligently to slow the development of Parkinson’s; in many cases, it is possible to live a full life with the aid of modern medicines and treatments.

 


What causes Parkinson’s disease?

The direct cause of why these nerve cells break down is still relatively unknown (e.g. due to aging, diet, certain environments, genetics, etc).  This said, there are enormous resources spent annually to more fully understand this disease and, by subsequently, to find its cure.  Preliminary research notes that abnormal genes seem to lead to Parkinson's disease in some people, making the disease hereditary. These findings are by no means conclusive, however, and much work is left to be done in fully understanding the workings of Parkinson’s.

 


Warning signs of Parkinson’s

The four main symptoms of Parkinson’s are:

  • Tremor, which means shaking or trembling. Tremor may affect your hands, arms, legs, or head.
  • Stiff muscles.
  • Slow movement.
  • Problems with balance or walking.

Tremors are often the first notable sign of Parkinson’s. It is one of the most common signs of the disease, although it is important to note not everyone with Parkinson’s will experience them. More importantly, not everyone with a tremor has Parkinson's disease. Tremor often starts in just one arm or leg or only on one side of the body. It may be worse when you are awake but not moving the affected arm or leg. It may get better when you move the limb or you are asleep.


In time, Parkinson’s affects muscles throughout the body - leading to problems like difficulty in swallowing or constipation. In the later stages of the disease, a person with Parkinson’s may have a fixed or blank expression, trouble speaking, and other problems. Some people also have a decrease in mental skills (dementia).

People who will be afflicted with Parkinson’s usually start to have symptoms between the ages of 50 and 60, but in some people symptoms start earlier.



How we can help?

EssentialCare has vast experience in working with people who have Parkinson’s.  While EssentialCare caregivers will not cure your loved one of Parkinson’s, they can make his or her life more comfortable and, in some cases, raise the quality of his or her life through engaging in specific activities noted to have a positive influence on Parkinson’s patients.

 

 


Diet

While there is no special diet required for people with Parkinson's disease, eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is extremely beneficial. With the proper diet, the body works more efficiently, it has more energy, and Parkinson's disease medications can work more effectively.

Please consult your doctor or dietitian before making any dietary changes. A registered dietitian can provide in-depth nutrition education, tailor these general guidelines to meet your needs, and help you create and follow a personal meal plan.

 

Exercise

Because Parkinson's disease affects the body’s ability to move, exercise helps to keep muscles strong and improve flexibility and mobility. Exercise will not stop Parkinson's disease from progressing; but, it can improve balance and it can prevent joint stiffening.

You should check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Your doctor may make recommendations about:

  • The types of exercise best suited to you and those which you should avoid
  • The intensity of the workout (how hard you should be working)
  • The duration of your workout and any physical limitations
  • Referrals to other professionals, such as a physical therapist who can help you create your own personal exercise program

The type of exercise that works best for you depends on your symptoms, fitness level, and overall health. Generally, exercises that stretch the limbs through the full range of motion are encouraged.


In addition to these activities, EssentialCare caregivers are ready to aid your loved one in day-to-day tasks, such as:

  • Bathing
  • Bed bath
  • Shower
  • Sponge bath
  • Shave
  • Shampoo
  • Oral care
  • Brush teeth
  • Denture care
  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Comb or brush hair
  • Skin care
  • Assist with nail care
  • Change adult briefs assist with incontinence
  • Assist with bedpan
  • Assist with urinal
  • Assist with commode
  • Reposition bed-bound clients to help prevent bedsores
  • Assist with active range-of-motion activities
  • Transfers
  • Ambulation
  • Feeding
  • Assist to bathroom
  • Medication reminders
  • Maintain fluids
  • Notate food intake
  • Notate urinary output
  • Notate bowel function
 

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