Caring For Elders with Parkinson’s Disease


eldercare and Parkinson'sby Martha June Whitman

Caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease can be an increasingly difficult task if you are not a professional caregiver. It is a progressive disease that presents new symptoms as time goes on. Parkinson’s is caused by the loss of nerve cells in the substantia nigra, the part of the brain that produces dopamine. Dopamine is essential for regulating movement throughout the body and it’s absence is responsible for most of the symptoms of Parkinson’s. The three biggest symptoms of the disease are:

• Tremor: involuntary shaking of parts of the body

• Rigidity: severe muscle stiffness that can prevent the patient from performing simple tasks such as getting off the couch

• Bradykinesia: very slow physical movement

These symptoms can make life very difficult for the afflicted person and it is important that someone be around to help them throughout the day. An assisted living professional is usually recommended in the most severe cases but if symptoms are mild or moderate a family member could be sufficient enough to do the tasks required. Here are the main guidelines for caring for someone with Parkinson’s Disease.

1. Make sure that in addition to the patient’s prescribed meds, you have plenty of medical supplies in the house in case of injury. Rigidity can be severe enough to cause a person to fall and hurt themselves so be sure to keep an eye on them when they are up and about. If the patient is elderly or has a history of incontinence it may be beneficial for them to wear some incontinence underwear in case their symptoms are enough to prevent them from reaching the bathroom in good time.

2. Make sure they get a reasonable amount of exercise but do not let them go outside alone. Again, if the case is more severe they are at risk of losing their balance and falling. It has been found that exercise can help with the symptoms of Parkinson’s so allow the patient to get a fair amount of exercise per day. Just make sure they are always supervised when doing so.

3. Make sure the house is well suited for them to get around comfortably. Take extra precautions to ensure that you can also get them around comfortably whether it’s by supporting them while they walk or carrying them. Modify the house with some guard rails if necessary, keep furniture conveniently placed to get around, and never leave small objects lying around on the floor.

4. Do not let them eat alone. Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing is another common symptom of those with moderate to severe cases. Make sure the patient has food they can get down with ease and will not choke on.

5. Last but not least, engage the patient throughout the day and talk to them about their hobbies and interests. Those with Parkinson’s frequently suffer from depression, anxiety, and overall loneliness. While there is now more efficient treatment for the disease that allows people to live a near normal life, there is still no cure. It is important to keep the patient happy, motivated, and optimistic that they will continue to live a fulfilling life.

Martha June Whitman is writer for National Incontinence, a supplier of various types of incontinence underwear. After three decades of caring for others, Martha June enjoys sharing her knowledge with other health enthusiasts in her writing.