Caregiving for Someone With Parkinson's Disease

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Parkinson's disease is a neurological cognition that causes cognitive decline. It causes damage to nerve cells in your brain and affects your movement. Caring for a person with this condition can be challenging. You need to arm yourself with sufficient knowledge to take care of a person with Parkinson's appropriately.

The longer a person lives with the condition, the more challenging their symptoms become. Preparing yourself for this can make caregiving for a person with Parkinson's more manageable.

Parkinson's is more likely to occur in older people and they often need a lot of hands-on care. As the condition progresses, you might need to brace yourself for new challenges. This article takes a look at the signs of Parkinson's to look out for in your loved ones and how you can best take care of them.

Recognize the Signs

Knowledge is your most powerful tool for caring for a loved one with Parkinson's. The first thing you need to know is how to recognize the signs, especially early on. The most identifiable symptom of Parkinson's disease is loss of motor skills. However, at the early stages of Parkinson's, a person will still likely be in complete control of their movements.

The most common signs of Parkinson's include:

  • Having tremors in the arms or legs 
  • Having difficulty walking 
  • Losing the ability to make facial expressions 
  • Experiencing muscle rigidity or stiffness
  • Experiencing a decline in cognition  
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Difficulty speaking 

Parkinson's disease occurs in five major stages. The first stage is the prodromal phase, and symptoms are not obvious. A person can be in the prodromal phase for many years before progressing into other more debilitating stages.

The first to third stages primarily feature a loss in motor skills. Here a person with Parkinson's will lose movement in one side of the body and eventually the whole body. In the fifth and last stage, they lose their motor skills entirely and become unable to move independently. 

Managing Parkinson's Disease 

Treatment for Parkinson's typically involves a combination of medication and therapy. In some cases, surgery might be needed. Levodopa is the medication commonly prescribed for Parkinson's.

It's used with other medicines significantly to help with symptoms that affect a person's movement. However, it comes with side effects that a caregiver needs to be prepared for.

As a caregiver, you should speak to your healthcare provider or doctor to provide you with a detailed list of the side effects to expect with each medication. It would be best to look for situations where the side effects become so intolerable that the drug might need to be changed or the dosage tweaked. 

Making Your Home Safe 

As Parkinson's progresses, a person with the condition experiences more mobility issues. They'll need more assistance going about their day-to-day lives. Getting around their home safely might also become a little more challenging.

Here are a couple of things you can do to make your home safer for a person with Parkinson's disease:

  • Keep the floors clear: Any things that can easily be tripped over on the floors of your home, like electrical cords, should be kept away. Keep the usual path they take through the house as clear as possible. 
  • Install ramps when needed: At the later stages of Parkinson's, a person's mobility might become so restricted that they need a wheelchair. It's essential to make your home wheelchair-friendly and accessible if this happens. 
  • Make your bathroom safer: Install grab bars around the tub and anti-slip mats in them if you have a bathtub. Also, keep personal hygiene products within easy reach to prevent them from slipping or falling over trying to reach for them. 

Getting Well Informed 

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative condition. As the condition progresses, the symptoms your loved one exhibits will also morph. Staying on top of this is very important. It is vital to get well informed about the condition, its treatment, and how best to manage a person with the condition.

However, it's essential to be careful where you source information. A host of misinformation exists on the internet about Parkinson's disease.

Organizations like the National Parkinson's Foundation and American Parkinson's Disease Association are great places to source valuable and reliable information about the condition. 

Other Tips for Caregivers

Arming yourself with the proper knowledge and preparing for the degenerating symptoms of the condition are the first and most essential steps for a caregiver taking care of a loved one with Parkinson's disease.

Other tips that can make this challenging prospect a little more manageable include: 

  • Maintain a healthy diet: Maintaining a healthy diet for your loved ones is as important as ensuring they stay on their medication and treatment plan. 
  • Ask for help: Don't feel like you have to take on all of the care alone. If you can afford it, you can hire assistance or reach out to other family and friends to help you with the care. 

Caring for Yourself 

It's easy to neglect caring for yourself when caring for a person with a debilitating condition like Parkinson's. Caring for your physical and mental health, it's crucial not just for your overall well-being but also to put you in the best headspace and position to take care of your loved one who has Parkinson's disease.

Here are some tips to help you care for yourself better:

  • Schedule time for self-care: It's easy for self-care to get pushed to the side if you don't make time for it. Other things will always feel more pressing or more important, but doing a small thing like taking ten minutes to meditate or practice deep breathing exercises can significantly improve your mental well-being. 
  • Monitor your health: Don't forget to stay on top of your medical and dental appointments. Stick to a balanced diet and a regular exercise routine.
  • Joining a support group: A support group allows you to meet and connect with people who understand your unique struggles and challenges. You'll also get access to valuable resources and information you might have not yet come across. If you don't have time to join in-person support groups, you can join a virtual one with people in your area. 
3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute on Aging. Parkinson’s Disease. May 16, 2017

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Parkinson’s disease: causes, symptoms, stages, treatment, support. January 5, 2020

  3. Parkinson’s Foundation. Stages of Parkinson’s.

By Toketemu Ohwovoriole
Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics.