What You Should Know About Parkinson’s Care
If your elderly loved one suffers from Parkinson’s disease, you need to know about what you can expect when hiring a home care agency to provide Parkinson’s care.
In this article, we go over what you need to know about Parkinson’s care, the disease itself and the challenges that Parkinson’s caregivers from a reputable home care agency must overcome.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s is a degenerative, neurological disease. It affects neurons in the body that produce dopamine. While the most common symptom of Parkinson’s is that the patient suffers from tremors, it also causes the patient’s limbs to become rigid and can affect a person’s balance.
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s?
There are other lesser-known symptoms of Parkinson’s. These include depression and apathy, constipation, sleep disorders, loss of smell, and behavior disorders. Not every patient exhibits every symptom. Because Parkinson’s looks different from patient to patient, it is difficult to make sweeping generalities regarding the care a Parkinson’s patient requires. Parkinson’s also tends to be a very slow-moving disease, and extra care may be minimal at first. As the disease progresses so does the need for outside care.
How do I care for someone with Parkinson’s?
If you are a caregiver for a person with Parkinson’s your tasks will change as the disease progresses.
At first, your loved one may need assistance retrieving clothes out of closets and drawers. A person with Parkinson’s has stiff limbs and reaching up into a closet to take a shirt off a hanger or reaching down into a drawer to get a pair of socks may be difficult. One of your first tasks as a caregiver is to move the clothing, so it is accessible for the patient.
If you are not available daily, you may consider installing a set of low-hanging hooks for shirts and finding a waist-high table to store pants and other articles of clothing. Depending on your availability, you may consider laying out the clothes ahead of time each day. Encourage your loved one to dress himself as long as he can.
As the disease progresses, your loved one may have a more difficult time dressing and undressing. To keep your loved one independent as long as possible, make sure he or she has access to accessible clothing. You may need to purchase pants with elastic waistbands. Avoid shirts that have to be pulled on over the head. Get bras that hook in the front.
Buttons and snaps are difficult to maneuver for a person with Parkinson’s. Use elastic whenever possible, and replace snaps and buttons with Velcro.
Shoes and socks are particularly tricky for a person with Parkinson’s to get on by himself. Look online for devices made to help a patient put on socks. Purchase slip-on shoes and a long-stemmed shoe horn to aid your loved one in putting on his shoes.
At some point, your loved one’s limbs may be too rigid for them to dress and undress themselves. If you are not available to help your loved one with this process, you might consider hiring a worker through a home care agency to assist your loved one with this process.
In the beginning stages, a person with Parkinson’s may be able to eat without any special assistance. As the disease progresses, there are things you can do as a caregiver to keep your loved independent for as long as possible.
Even in the beginning stages of the disease, a Parkinson’s patient may not be able to reach the necessary items in the kitchen. Move all the required things to the first shelf of the kitchen cabinet or keep them on the counter.
Reaching up into a microwave that is installed above the stove or down into the oven may be too difficult for your loved one. Consider purchasing a microwave that sits on the counter.
You should also be thoughtful of where you store items within a refrigerator. Keep the things your loved one would want to access the most on the shelf in the fridge that does not require bending to reach.
At times, your loved one’s tremors may disrupt his or her ability to eat. Search online for utensils for people with tremors. You may consider purchasing a plate that has rubber grips on the bottom so the plate can be secure even if the hands are not. You may also consider buying weighted utensils with non-slip handles that are particularly helpful for people with tremors.
Your loved ones’ ability to cook for himself will diminish over time as the disease progresses. You may want to contact your area’s Council on Aging to see if Meals on Wheels is available in your area. This program will ensure that your loved one gets at least one hot, nutritious meal a day. This meal can be supplemented with microwavable prepackaged meals or other delivery services.
Since constipation is a concern for many Parkinson’s patients, make sure your loved one gets enough fiber, like from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and bran products.
At some point, your loved one may require assistance at every meal, either in preparing the food or in feeding himself. When the disease progresses to this stage, you may consider hiring a home care worker to assist your loved one with the eating process.
Bathing is another challenge for a person with Parkinson’s. Since bathing in a traditional tub can be risky for all older adults, it should be especially avoided for a person with Parkinson’s.
In an ideal situation, a person with Parkinson’s would have a walk-in shower that comes equipped with a hand-held shower-head and a grab bar. A shower stool is also extremely helpful for a person with Parkinson’s as standing independently may be difficult.
A person with Parkinson’s may have a difficult time reaching her hair for washing and conditioning. He or she will also need assistance with coming and styling hair after the shower.
An electric toothbrush and electric razor would also be helpful tools for a person with Parkinson’s.
Depression and Anxiety
Your loved one may be suffering from depression and/or anxiety as a result of the disease. Your loved one may become frustrated or discouraged when attempting to participate in activities that he always loved but can no longer do. Try to find ways to adapt the activities so he or she can get some joy in them. Maybe your dad can no longer hold a book to read, but he can learn to enjoy audiobooks. Maybe your mom can’t dig in a flowerbed outside, but she could plant flowers in a window planter. It is essential to try to keep their lives as normal as possible, while at the same time making accommodations for their physical disabilities.
Hire extra help
As Parkinson’s progresses, your loved one will require 24-hour care. He or she may be confined to a wheelchair or bed-ridden. Before your loved one gets to this stage, you may consider researching home care agencies that will be able to assist you in caring for your loved one. Even if you think you can provide all the care your loved one needs, there will be times when you need to go to your own doctors’ appointments, buy groceries, and visit friends. You can’t do this alone.
Being a caregiver is extremely difficult. Take care of yourself. Give yourself grace. Allow yourself to feel frustration at times, and then understand that caring for a family member is one of the most life-changing and life-blessing things you can ever experience.