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Understanding Parkinson's DiseaseJuly 1, 2021
The Signs and Symptoms
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological disorder that primarily impacts dopamine-producing neurons in the brain. Since there are no diagnostic tests available and symptoms develop slowly over years, Parkinson’s is difficult to diagnose early. In fact, physicians may not diagnose until the later stages, when symptoms become more apparent. Signs and symptoms may vary, but patients or their families often notice these common characteristics:
- Tremor or an involuntary shaking of a hand or foot when resting that often stops when active or moving
- Smaller handwriting
- Slow movement in the limbs, face, walking, or overall body, known as bradykinesia
- Limb rigidity, marked by stiffness in the arms, legs, or trunk that doesn’t go away as you move
- Posture instability that can cause gait or balance issues
- Trouble swallowing
- Speaking in a low or soft voice
- Feeling dizzy when you stand up
Parkinson ’s disease may also present non-motor symptoms, sometimes before motor or movement-related symptoms. These early signs may include:
- Unexplained anxiety or depression
- Memory loss
- Ongoing constipation
- Sleep disorders or disturbances
- Loss of sense of smell
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms and have not yet been diagnosed with Parkinson ’s disease, talk to your primary care physician about your concerns and request a referral for a neurological exam.
Living with Parkinson’s Disease
While needs and disease progression vary from person to person, learning to manage symptoms when they arise will help you adapt and maintain your quality of life. The most commonly asked questions from those newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease center around what to do next and how to prepare for the future. If you are a caregiver, you may be looking for advice and how to best assist your loved one.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Research suggests that exercise can help prevent or slow the progression of Parkinson’s. It can also help improve symptoms such as stiffness and balance problems. Exercise is also proven to reduce stress, and group activities can help you avoid feeling isolated. Having a diet with a variety of healthy food choices that include whole grains, high fiber, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables is beneficial for your overall health. Limit processed foods, sugar and your sodium intake. Work with your medical team and keep them apprised of any health changes.
Support from family and friends can be beneficial to help process your emotions and provide assistance with modifications you may need. Support groups for patients and caregivers can help reduce stress, provide information on resources and be a source of encouragement. Find organizations like the Parkinson’s Foundation that can provide information and connect you with resources.
Prepare for the Future
In many cases, Parkinson’s disease can be managed with medications, and mobility won’t be an issue for many years. However, having the foresight to think about potential future needs will make situations easier when they arise. For example, is your bathroom accessible, can you install grab bars? Are there trip hazards in your home? Will your house accommodate a ramp?
When to Consider Home Care Services
The progression of Parkinson’s is different for each individual and as care needs change you should continually reevaluate your need for help. In late-stage Parkinson’s, many people need assistance with their own movements or activities of daily living. Home health aides can help with daily activities, however should symptoms become more limiting your physician may recommend skilled care in the home; nurses and physical therapists to help manage symptoms and improve mobility.
Redeemer Health Home Care specializes in helping patients and caregivers manage complex and chronic diseases. Our team of clinicians can help Parkinson’s patients with symptom management and mobility.