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:

Primary symptoms:

  • Tremors
  • Stiff and slow body movements
  • Impaired balance
  • Shuffling gait as the disease progresses

Secondary symptoms:

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:

Walking

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.

Dressing

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