If your aging loved one has Parkinson’s disease, you fully understand how it affects their body and mind. Watching the disease’s progression can be hard, and there are days when providing the caregiving support that’s needed simply wears you down. Because the onset of Parkinson’s can be subtle, there are several important signs to look for. April is national Parkinson’s Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to educate others about how to identify the symptoms and provide support to those who have been diagnosed with the disease.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

Scientists have not found a definitive cause for Parkinson’s disease yet, but in general it’s a neurodegenerative disorder that targets dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain’s substantia nigra region. Once that takes place, noticeable signs start to appear.

Parkinson’s Symptoms

Although the onset and progression of Parkinson’s varies, most patients have these symptoms:

  • Tremors (slight shaking) while resting in the hand, chin, fingers or thumb
  • Handwriting that’s smaller than it used to be
  • Loss of smell
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Soft or hoarse voice
  • Difficulty walking or moving around
  • Constipation
  • “Masked” face (serious, depressed or mad look)
  • Stooped or hunched over appearance
  • Fainting or dizziness

Most of these symptoms can also result from other health conditions or certain medications, so the first step is getting a definitive diagnosis from a neurologist.

How to Support Your Loved One

When your loved one is first diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it can be an emotionally devastating time for the two of you. As an informal caregiver, here are several ways to help them enjoy a higher quality of life as the disease advances:

Learn All You Can

Educate yourself as much as possible about Parkinson’s and what to expect. That will help you better understand and anticipate behavioral changes as events play out. A great online information source is the Parkinson’s F