According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, over 1.5 million Americans have the disease, with another 60,000 new cases being diagnosed every year. Most commonly found in those aged 65-and-over, Parkinson’s can be a major game-changer when it comes to a senior’s ability to continue aging in place at home.
If your elderly parent has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, here are some positive ways to help them enjoy their remaining at-home independence for as long as possible.
What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that deteriorates motor skill function by targeting dopamine-producing brain cells. Its cause is unknown, but researchers believe that both genetic and environmental factors are involved. Parkinson’s afflicts men more than women, but otherwise seems to impact all ethnic and socio-economic groups equally. According to www.medicinenet.com, symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
- Stiff and slow body movements
- Impaired balance
- Shuffling gait as the disease progresses
The disease’s progression can be mapped using 5 stages (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation), and unfortunately no cure exists. However, there are several medications available that can help improve the quality of life for Parkinson’s patients by managing the disease’s symptoms.
Caring for an Elderly Parent with Parkinson’s
As a family caregiver, there are several ways you can help an aging parent cope with the disease. Step one is to get them under the care of a highly qualified neurologist. In addition, you can provide some daily living assistance in these areas:
As your loved one slowly begins to lose their balance and coordination, they will need some walking assistance. At first, you’ll be able to offer them an arm or shoulder for support. But as the Parkinson’s gets worse, it will probably be necessary to find them an assistive device like a cane or walker so they can reliably get around.
Because the disease targets one’s motor skills, simple tasks like getting dressed, buttoning up shirts or closing pant and jacket zippers becomes more and more difficult. There are assistive dressing aids that are designed for Parkinson’s patients, and if those aren’t enough consider buying your loved one clothing and shoes with Velcro. Pants and slacks with elastic waistbands also work well.
Bathing and Toileting
For someone with Parkinson’s, the bathroom can be a very dangerous place. Install handrails near the toilet and in the tub area, and a shower seat and non-skid strips as additional bathing precautions. As your loved one’s mobility diminishes even further, you’ll need to help them with their bathing and toileting needs to lower the risk of bathroom falls.
For many patients, Parkinson’s restricts the throat muscles, which makes it hard to eat on their own. Fortunately, there are special curved utensils available for transferring their food from plate to mouth. Food choices are also important for a senior with Parkinson’s, so make sure to serve your loved one softer foods that are easier to chew and swallow.
Fall-Proofing the Home
It’s also important to fall-proof your senior’s home by clearing doorways of obstacles, placing furniture near walls, and removing slippery throw rugs. And, make sure there are handrails on all steps and stairs, including ones outside the home.
At some point you’ll need to provide transportation for your parent so they can get to the store, doctor’s appointments, bank and other important activities. Later, it will become necessary to move them into your home to ensure they get the continuous care that’s required. Another option you have is to hire an in-home caregiver from an agency that’s licensed and insured to care for seniors with Parkinson’s.
Compassionate Home Care for Seniors with Parkinson’s
Taking care of an aging parent with Parkinson’s can be hard, especially when you have your own household to manage or live far away. When you need a hand, call Seniors Prefer Homecare. Our highly trained and carefully screened caregivers can provide your loved one with the compassionate care they need to continue aging safely in place right where they want to be. And, if your senior requires 24-hour or live-in supervision, our fully licensed and insured agency has the reliable continuous care services you need to restore your peace-of-mind.
Our family trusted home care services include light housework, personal hygiene, medication reminders, meals, transportation and companionship; all of which can be flexibly tailored in an affordable package when and where you need them. To learn more about our “cream of the crop” home care services for seniors in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville, AL, please visit Seniors Prefer Homecare at: www.seniorspreferhomecare.com now!