Although it’s highly rewarding, caring for an aging-in-place loved one with Parkinson’s disease (PD) can also be exhausting. Between going to doctor appointments, cooking meals and managing their household finances, there never seems to be enough time in the day. Allowing pent-up stress to reach the breaking point isn’t healthy for you or your loved one. In observance of Parkinson’s Awareness Month, here are some proven ways for you as a caregiver to relieve stress before it becomes an issue.
Parkinson’s is a Progressive Disease
The symptoms of PD vary in type and severity from individual-to-individual. In most cases those symptoms gradually worsen as the disease progresses. There is no known cure for Parkinson’s, although certain surgeries and medications can help a patient live a more fulfilling life.
In the later stages of Parkinson’s, performing even routine activities of daily living (ADLs) become even more difficult. Over a course of many years, the typical person living with PD ends up with complications that eventually become fatal.
Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
As the level of care required increases, it’s common for an informal caregiver who’s assisting a loved one with Parkinson’s to feel a high level of stress and be physically and emotionally drained. Known as “caregiver stress,” here are the classic signs and symptoms to watch for:
- Chronic fatigue
- Lack-of-interest in activities once enjoyed
- Getting irritable and angry
- Rapid weight loss or weight gain
- Substance abuse
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Getting sick more often than usual
- Feeling alone and isolated
If allowed to persist caregiver stress can morph into full-blown caregiver burnout, which then places both the caregiver and care recipient at risk.
Stress Management Tips for Informal Caregivers
Staying healthy and mentally refreshed while caring for someone with Parkinson’s is possible by taking these stress management steps:
Do your research
Learning all you can about the disease will help you better prepare for the future as care needs change. A great place to start is the Parkinson’s Foundation. Also get to know your loved one’s doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers. Joining a local Parkinson’s caregiver support group is another way to share your experiences with others and learn new skills.