According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year. Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects motor skills. Our nervous system serves as the communication center, helping to make sense of what is happening inside and outside of our bodies. The cause is still unknown at this time and there are currently no cure. Only about 10-15% of diagnosed cases can be considered genetic; however, the other 85-90% are classified as sporadic.
Symptoms can start to develop and become noticeable as early as 50-60 years old. Symptoms of Parkinson’s are caused by over-activity or under-activity of dopamine. Some symptoms can include:
- Weakness and stiffness
- Slumped, bent-over posture
- Shuffling walk or poor balance
- Difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Mood changes
Parkinson’s disease not only affects that lives of those diagnosed, but also takes a toll on care takers, family members and loved ones. Although there may not be a current cure for the disease, there are interventions and precautions that everyone can take to help manage Parkinson’s symptoms, including:
- Encourage mobility and exercises that address range-of-motion
- Maintain adequate nutrition and fluid - give small, frequent meals high in fiber
- Help keep a safe environment - keep their room free of clutter
- Offer help, but encourage independence
- Encourage the use of assistive devices for walking.
- Remind them to take frequent rest periods
- Keep tasks simple
- Support your loved one by listening to their concerns about their loss of abilities
Understanding of the disease and how to manage its symptoms are key to providing the best care to persons affected by Parkinson’s and their family members. To read more on facts and symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, visit the Parkinson’s Foundation.