April is Parkinson's Awareness Month. Sadly, the prevalence of Parkinson’s Disease is on the rise in Australia due to our ageing population.
Today, an estimated 10 million people worldwide are living with this neurodegenerative disorder, and more than three million people die of the disease each year.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a disorder of the brain that affects the transmission of messages to the muscles. When a person has PD, there is damage to the part of the brain that produces dopamine, an important chemical that allows the muscles to operate properly. The causes of PD are not entirely understood. Scientists continue to learn about genetic and environmental factors.
Tremor. The most common symptom is trembling or involuntary movement of hands, arms, legs or face; the person may appear to be “rolling” something between their fingers.
Rigidity. The muscles are tense and contracted. It’s hard to move the arms and legs, and this effect may be painful. Handwriting may become cramped and harder to read.
Slowness of body movement. The person might experience a slow, shuffling gait, sometimes alternating between slow steps and more rapid ones.
Balance problems. Postural instability makes it hard to sit up or stand up straight, and raises the risk of falling.
Difficulty chewing and swallowing. The muscles that help us eat may be affected, which can lead to drooling, choking and pneumonia.
Speech difficulties. Speech may be slow and expressionless. Facial mobility also is affected, so the person may seem to be expressionless.
Nonmotor symptoms. Some symptoms of PD do not involve movement. A person may experience depression and other emotional changes, sleep disruptions, thinking or memory problems, and other personality changes.
There currently are no definitive tests to confirm the diagnosis, which is instead based on observation of the person’s symptoms and on their medical history. The doctor may order laboratory tests and brain scans, but those are to rule out other diseases that might be causing the symptoms — neither helps in diagnosing PD.
It might take a while for the doctor to arrive at a definitive diagnosis. Each case of PD is a bit different. Symptoms differ and can vary over time — a patient might have some better days, some worse, and days when one symptom is more noticeable than others. It is likewise difficult to predict the course of the disease in an individual patient. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), although some people with PD experience only minor motor disruptions, others eventually need to use a wheelchair and become bedridden.
Further complicating diagnosis, other neurological disorders also cause similar movement problems. These are referred to as parkinsonisms, and include certain brain diseases, stroke, abnormal fluid on the brain, head injuries, or the effects of drugs and alcohol.
Medication and other treatments for PD will not help if a patient has one of these other conditions — and vice versa. So, a correct diagnosis is very important, even if the answer isn’t readily clear.
As of yet, there is no cure for PD. But treatments can reduce symptoms significantly.
Treatment is individualised to each patient, and might include:
Your role might include:
As they’re helping their loved one manage PD, family often lose sight of their own health and well-being. They might be juggling work duties and other family responsibilities with their loved one’s care. And often they are dealing with emotional pain of their own. As their loved one’s condition changes, spouses and children evolve into the caregiver role. PD also changes the way patients communicate, so family must learn new ways to connect.
Fortunately, our healthcare system is recognising the important role of family caregivers. If you are a family caregiver, learn about support resources that can help, such as a caregiver support group (in person or online), and federal, state and local support services. Talk to other family members and friends about your loved one’s needs and how they can help. You can’t do it alone!
A caregiver can provide:
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor about the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
From all of us here at Right at Home,
In good health.
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As a home care provider, Right at Home Australia provides support and homecare and assistance for the elderly and for people suffering with illness so they can remain at home together with their loved ones through recovery or maintain an independent life if living with a disability. Our care services fall into several categories of home care for seniors, adults living with a disability and post-operative care including services for those with special care situations caused by complex medical conditions. Right at Home is a 'My Aged Care' government approved, home care provider for levels 1 – 4 and have a comprehensive portfolio of care services that ensure your loved ones get the care they need. Right at Home also provides care through the NDIS disability scheme. Our number one priority is the safety of our staff and clients, and we follow strict hygiene and safety protocols.
Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care, and assistance to seniors (elderly and aged care) and adults living with a disability who want to continue to live independently or age in their home. Right at Home is your local expert for issues related to caring for your loved ones and is dedicated to keeping you informed about home care. With no admin or subscription fees Right at Home allows you to get more care from your package or budget.
Right at Home is a 'My Aged Care' government approved, home care provider for levels 1 – 4 and offers flexible in-home care services such as nursing care, after hospital care, post-operative care, respite care, dementia and Alzheimer's care. Right at Home also offers assistance with daily living and personal care such as grooming, hygiene, transport, shopping, meal prep, domestic services and social support, so your loved one can enjoy a more independent, vibrant life. Our nurses and caregivers are screened, highly trained, and insured prior to entering your home so you can trust us with the caregiving while you focus on your loved one.
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