Parkinson’s Disease and Caregiving

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive, neurological disease that mainly affects movement but can also affect cognition. It may start with mild symptoms, but gradually they escalate and can have a big impact. It can range from confusion to hallucinations (seeing things that are not there) and delusions (believing something is true when it’s not). Many of these symptoms can present themselves for up to ten years before the typical motor symptoms are noticed

Caring for a loved one with PD can be a challenging job, especially as the disease progresses. Especially early in the Parkinson’s journey, you might not feel like you are actually “giving” care. Whatever your responsibilities, define “caregiving” for yourself.  Similarly, your loved one might not see himself or herself as someone in need of care. But remember, care is not limited to physical tasks. Care can be emotional and spiritual as well as physical.

Aside from the many therapies that are now being offered from a medical standpoint, there are studies that show physical activities can play an important role for those living with Parkinson’s disease. Walking, swimming, dance, yoga, and other movements can play an important role for individuals living with Parkinson’s disease.

Other tips to keep in mind while caring for someone with Parkinson’s include:

Breathing deeply and when you get one free minute. Do one thing that puts a smile on your face. Go out to the garden and breathe in the fragrance of a rose. Put on encouraging music. Read a short devotional. Fix a cup of tea. Scream. Screaming is highly underrated.

Joining a support group – Together, or separately. Support groups exist for people with Parkinson’s as well as caregivers, and can be a great way to share feelings and experiences and well as gather advice. Ask your loved one’s doctor or call a local hospital for help finding one in your area.

Getting organized – Keep a calendar dedicated to your loved one, with doctor appointments, medication start dates and notes on changing symptoms. If you are providing in-home care to your loved one, consider automating as many bills or prescriptions for him or her as possible.

Planning ahead –  Though Parkinson’s disease progresses differently for everyone, educating yourself and your loved one on future symptoms to look out for will help in the long run.

Be watchful of your loved one’s mental health. As a caregiver, you likely spend the most time with your loved one and are very in-tune with his or her moods. If you notice any signs of anxiety or depression. Talk with his or her doctor. While depression can be a natural response to a challenging disease, researchers believe that it can also be a Parkinson’s disease symptom triggered by changes in the brain.

Although there is no evidence that non-medical activities can affect disease progression, physical activity may assist with management of the symptoms of the disease while helping to increase enjoyment of life by staying active, having fun, and learning new skills.