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Parkinson's Disease: Tips for Caregivers

By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 3)

With more than one million people affected with Parkinsonís disease in the United States today, there are many issues that caregivers are either facing now or will face in the future. Parkinsonís disease is a slow, degenerative disease manifesting itself in stiff muscles, difficulty walking, and other movement-related issues over time.

With the majority of those who are diagnosed over the age of 60, there are still many people who are diagnosed as young as age 30. Caregivers need to be aware of not only the issues that Parkinsonís poses for their loved ones, but ways that they can help mitigate the damage and help in quality of life decisions. Some of the areas where caregivers can assist include: medication management, exercise and diet, and reducing stress, and even issues related to traveling.

Parkinsonís Disease Ė What Caregivers can Expect:

In Parkinsonís disease, the bodyís ability to produce and utilize a neurotransmitter named dopamine is affected. This particular neurotransmitter affects the bodyís ability to control movement and coordination, as well as regulating mood. The result is that body movements become more stiff and regimented over time, responding less to the move ďfluid nuancesĒ of everyday movement that the body was once accustomed to. Many people with Parkinsonís also face issues related to depression when the amount of dopamine in the brain decreases. Finally, dementia and hallucinations are also a possibility, although only about 20 percent of people with Parkinsonís will also experience problems related to dementia. The onset for dementia symptoms and other cognitive or memory issues generally are noticed about 10 to 15 years after the first onset of Parkinsonís.

The first noticeable symptom of Parkinsonís is usually a slight tremor in the limbs. Over time, the patient will experience difficulty walking and may progress into a typical ďParkinsonís GaitĒ Ė shuffling, head facing downward, and little or no swinging of the arms. Freezing in mid-stride is also a common feature. Other secondary symptoms related to Parkinsonís include difficulty swallowing, small or cramped writing, loss of bowel control or constipation, dry skin and scalp, and even excess salivation.

Medication Management:

One of the issues that caregivers can face is learning how to cope with the myriad of medications that their loved ones may need to take to help manage the disease. Some of these medications may help manage symptoms related to movement, while there are also medications needed to help offset depression and mood issues. If your loved one is experiencing difficulties related to dementia, there could be other medications for that portion of the disease as well.


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