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How Home Health Aides Can Help Seniors With Parkinson's

Each year, about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. This makes it one of the more common progressive neurological conditions, and a growing problem for our aging population.

What Is Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative condition affecting a specific part of the brain, which is called the substantia nigra. Sufferers experience progressive symptoms, which include:

  • Tremor, mostly at rest, and particularly in the hands
  • Bradykinesia, or slowness of movement
  • Limb rigidity
  • Issues with gait and balance
  • Apathy and depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Constipation
  • Cognitive issues

Parkinson's is not fatal, but results in increasing issues with mobility and activities of daily living. Parkinson's Disease is primarily treated with dopaminergic medication, which replaces the dopamine not being produced by the brain. Symptoms generally show up fairly late in progression, making it hard to slow the disease. The type of symptoms experienced and the speed of progression are highly variable. Other treatments include deep brain stimulation (which uses electrical stimulation to relieve movement problems) and surgery to deliver a medication gel directly to the small intestine.

There is no cure for Parkinson's, only ways to improve the symptoms and the sufferers' quality of life. However, research is being done to improve earlier detection and diagnosis and there is always hope for improvement.

How Parkinson's Affects Quality of Life

Parkinson's affects the quality of life of the patient and their caregivers in a number of ways. Most people with PD, for example, will have to give up driving, which can be a huge problem for seniors who live alone and/or in rural areas. It can also affect self-esteem and feelings of independence. This can also cause issues for caregivers, who have to find the time to drive their loved one places or to run errands for them that they could previously do for themselves.

PD can also result in an increased risk of falls, which can be serious, especially for older patients. Many patients find that they need to use a walker or a scooter as the disease progresses. Severe hand tremors can even affect the person's ability to eat normally, although stabilizing flatware can be extremely helpful.

Medications can have side effects, which include dyskinesia (involuntary movement) and impulse control issues such as excessive shopping, unusual sexual behavior, and compulsive eating. These can cause health problems in and of themselves as well as major issues for caregivers.

How Can a Home Health Aide Help?

A home health aide can offer assistance in a variety of areas to people with Parkinson's and help them stay in their own home longer before having to move to assisted living.

Health aides are not medical professionals, but rather help with activities of daily living. For example, they can help the person with bathing, dressing, and grooming when tremors make these activities difficult or dangerous. They can make sure that the person takes their medication, especially if they have cognitive issues that make it hard to remember.

They can also help with meal preparation, another thing which can be very hard with tremors, drive the senior on their errands and to medical appointments, do shopping, etc. Further, they can help with voice exercises and physical therapy that can reduce the impact of motor symptoms. By being around when the family can't, they reduce the sense of loneliness many seniors experience.

Hiring a home health aide also means that caregivers and family members are not trying to juggle caring for the senior with their own lives, and can instead plan relaxing visits where everyone can have fun. For seniors with Parkinson's disease, a home health aide can help them stay independent and continue to do the activities they enjoy. Interested in learning more about Elite Home Health Care's home care services? Contact us today!

Written by: Yelena Sokolsky