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When Your Spouse Learns They Have Parkinson’s – 5 Ways to Help

| Chronic Disease

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Not as many people are as familiar with Parkinson’s disease (PD) as they are with, perhaps, heart disease. But it is believed that worldwide, more than 8.5 million people have Parkinson’s, including many who may not yet realise they have it.

The World Health Organization says that “disability and death due to PD are increasing faster than for any other neurological disorder”. It adds, “The prevalence of PD has doubled in the past 25 years”.

Parkinson’s disease typically strikes at age 60 or older, but it can affect younger people. Perhaps the most visible public advocate is Canadian actor Michael J. Fox, star of the “Back to the Future” movies. He was diagnosed aged 29 and he has spent the years since raising awareness through The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. If your loved one recently received a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, you may be feeling a range of emotions, including shock, sadness, and anxiety about the future. Remember, you are not alone. There are resources and strategies you can use to help you and your spouse navigate this new challenge.

What is Parkinson’s?

First, it is helpful to understand what PD is and how it affects the body. Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement and can cause tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. It is caused by the loss of cells in the brain that produce a chemical called dopamine, which is responsible for sending signals between brain cells that control movement. Symptoms begin slowly, often on one side of the body. Later, they affect both sides.

Symptoms include:

  • Trembling of hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
  • Stiffness of the arms, legs and trunk
  • Slowness of movement
  • Poor balance and coordination

As symptoms worsen, people with PD may have trouble walking, talking or doing simple tasks. They may also experience depression, sleep problems, or trouble chewing, swallowing or speaking. There is no cure for PD, and the severity of symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. Treatment options include medications to help manage symptoms and improve mobility, as well as physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Some people with Parkinson’s may also benefit from deep brain stimulation, a surgical procedure that involves the implantation of a device that sends electrical signals to specific areas of the brain to help control symptoms.

How to Help Your Loved One

If you are the caregiver to someone diagnosed with Parkinson’s, there are several steps you can take to help them manage their condition and maintain their quality of life.

Here are Right at Home Australia’s top five suggestions.

  1. One of the most important things you can do is to educate yourself about the disease and stay up to date on the latest treatment options and resources. This will help you better understand your loved one or patient’s condition and be able to support them in their treatment decisions.
  2. It is also crucial to be patient and understanding. Parkinson’s can be a challenging and frustrating condition, and your spouse will have good days and bad days. Simply being there for them and offering support and encouragement will help.
  3. Another way you can help your spouse is by helping them maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes encouraging them to eat a healthy, balanced diet; exercise regularly; and get enough sleep. Exercise can be especially beneficial for people with PD, as it can help them improve mobility, balance and coordination. Find activities that your spouse enjoys and that are appropriate for their level of mobility.
  4. It is also imperative to create a safe and accessible home environment for your spouse. This may involve making simple modifications such as installing handrails in the bathroom or removing tripping hazards. Have a plan in place in case of emergencies, such as a list of emergency contacts and a way to communicate with them if your spouse is unable to speak.
  5. Finally, remember to take care of yourself. Caring for someone with a chronic illness can be physically and emotionally draining. Make time for yourself and take breaks when you need. Reach out for support from friends, family, and the community.

It may be difficult at this time to feel hopeful or grateful, but you may find some comfort in these words from Michael J. Fox.

“Gratitude makes optimism sustainable. If you are grateful for the opportunities you have, for what you have been given to do work-wise, for the opportunities that exist, you are optimistic. If you can just find those moments, I always feel that if you flip the coin 100 times, you are going to come up heads 51”.

We at Right at Home care for many people with Parkinson’s. We help them with meals, oversee exercise, and provide hygiene assistance and transportation to doctor appointments. We also provide respite time for the family carers. For information about our extensive home care services go you our services page and call us on 1300 363 802 to discuss your needs with your local Right at Home office.

For more information about Parkinson's Month in Australia look at the Parkinson's Australia website here.

Keep up to date with COVID 19 information on the following links: 

Australian Government Department of Health 

Victorian Health and Human Services 

NSW Health 

Queensland Health 

ACT Health 

WA Department of Health 

Tasmanian Department of Health 

Northern Territory Department of Health 

SA Health 

Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care, and assistance to seniors (elderly and aged care), and any adult who needs our care at home including 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 package management 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. 

To find out more, please give us a call on 1300 363 802 or visit our website. 

Right at Home Offices in Australia: Adelaide Central; Brisbane Bayside; Brisbane North; Brisbane South; Brisbane West; Central Queensland & Wide Bay; Darling Downs; Far North Queensland; Gold Coast North; Gold Coast South; Greater Logan; Mackay; Moreton Bay Region; Noosa, Gympie & Hinterland; Sunshine Coast; Townsville; Central West New South Wales; Gosford; Hunter & Port Stephens; Macarthur Penrith; Newcastle; Northern Rivers; Padstow St George; Southern NSW; Sydney Central & Eastern Suburbs; Sydney Inner West; Sydney Liverpool; Sydney Lower North Shore; Sydney Norwest; Sydney Northern Beaches; Sydney Parramatta; Sydney Ryde; Sydney The Hills; Sydney Upper North Shore; Kalgoorlie Wheatbelt; Perth Como; Perth Midland; Perth Northern Suburbs; Perth West Coast; Southwest Victoria 

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