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Planning for Future Care After a Parkinson’s Diagnosis

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive disorder that targets the nervous system and parts of the body controlled by nerves. Brain changes caused by the disease can affect a person’s gait and posture, and facial expressions, and as it progresses, it can begin to interfere with the ability to make sound judgments. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Parkinson’s disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder in the United States, following Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms of Parkinson’s can look different for each person, depending on when the diagnosis occurs within the progression of the disease. However, there is some common symptoms most PD patients experience.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Those with Parkinson’s disease can experience both motor and non-motor symptoms. The first signs of Parkinson’s are often so subtle that they go unnoticed. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms tend to get worse. Here are the most common symptoms according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Tremors in the face, legs, arms, and hands. Tremors, which usually appear as shaking in the limbs, hands, or fingers, are very common among Parkinson’s patients. Some people might experience hand trembling while resting or rubbing between the forefinger and thumb.
  • Rigidity. Muscle stiffness can occur in any part of the body and become painful if it lasts for long periods of time. Many people who experience rigidity have a limited range of motion and trouble with walking.
  • Slowness. Parkinson’s can cause delayed movements and make basic daily tasks hard to complete. Other symptoms include walking with shorter steps or dragging your feet while walking.
  • Loss of automatic movements. Unconscious movements such as blinking, smiling, and swallowing becomes more difficult as the disease progresses.
  • Changes in speech. Some individuals with Parkinson’s disease experience changes in their speech such as hesitation, softness, quickness of speech or slurring words.

The 5 Stages of Parkinson’s Disease

The stages of PD may vary from person to person. The stages listed below are a guideline of what one might experience; however, everyone experiences symptoms differently. Other concurring illnesses or environmental factors may impact a person’s progression.

Stage one: Mild symptoms tend not to interfere with daily activities. A person may start to show subtle changes in posture, walking, and/or facial expressions.

Stage two: While the person may still be capable of living alone, symptoms will begin to progress. They may experience tremors, rigidity, and other movement symptoms on both sides of their body.

Stage three: This is considered to be mid-stage. Individuals may experience a movement slowdown and loss of balance, making them at a higher risk for falls. The individual should still be able to remain quite independent although they may need assistance with dressing and eating.

Stage four: Symptoms tend to significantly affect day-to-day activities at this stage. While individuals may be able to stand unaided, they may benefit from assistance with walking, such as a walker. To ensure the individuals remain safe, work with the care team to assess for safety in the home.

Stage five: At this stage, this individual will need 24/7 care. Mobility is compromised and adaptive equipment such as a wheelchair may be needed. Assistance with all personal care will be needed. During this stage, connection, companionship, and comfort are key.

Planning for Care with Parkinson’s

At some stage of the disease, those with PD will likely require additional support, either in their homes or in an assisted living community. As the disease progresses, it’s likely that those with PD will have evolving care needs. It’s important to discuss your loved one’s care wishes and plans at the beginning of the disease and revisit the discussion consistently. There are many different options for getting the care you need to live well with PD. Here are some of the best ways to plan for the long term after you or your loved one receives a PD diagnosis:

  • Plan your care team. Because PD is a progressive disease, it’s important to create a team of specialists that will support your needs as they change. Those with Parkinson’s disease often enlist the help of a movement disorder specialist who has extensive knowledge of the disease and therapies designed to manage symptoms. Allied care professionals include occupational therapists, physical therapists, counselors, and nutritionists. These specialists work together to help you manage your symptoms and stay independent for as long as possible. Caregivers are also a crucial part of the care team. Caregivers may be hired as private duty aids, a spouse, a family member, or a friend. Typically, caregivers take on day-to-day responsibilities such as managing doctor’s appointments, preparing meals, assisting with daily activities, and helping their loved ones live out their wishes.
  • Understand your care requirements. While many individuals plan to age in place, it’s important that those with PD consider all care options. The Parkinson’s Foundation has provided suggested care and living guidelines to ensure the safety of those with PD. Some of these suggestions include designating a full-time caregiver that can provide around-the-clock care with few other responsibilities, a home that is large enough to accommodate wheelchairs, walking aids, and other medical equipment, a home environment that is on one level and equipped with handrails, ramps, etc.
  • Research your options. Some individuals may choose to remain in their homes with proper home care. However, others may choose to transition into an assisted living community. Not only do assisted living communities provide help with daily activities, medication management, transportation, and meal prep, but they also provide an opportunity to socialize. Those with PD are more likely to experience loneliness and isolation, which can have negative impacts on one’s overall health. Assisted living communities have built-in opportunities for social interaction and relationship building.

Living with Parkinson’s at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, our assisted living communities are designed to meet the specific needs of each individual. Our highly trained staff assesses resident needs and develop a care plan that meets their individual requirements and respects their wishes. Learning how to live with Parkinson’s disease can be difficult for those diagnosed with the disease and their families; however, Maplewood Senior Living is dedicated to making it feel a little easier. Our comprehensive guide is a great resource for those who have been newly diagnosed with the disease or those who are planning for the future. If you’d like to discuss our offerings or schedule a tour, please contact us.

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