Parkinson’s Disease Care
Parkinson’s disease is an age-related brain condition. Like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that can affect memory, sleep, and the ability to complete everyday tasks. Some senior living communities offer memory support that includes specialty services for residents with cognitive difficulties, including Parkinson’s.
Caring for a person with Parkinson’s disease requires caregivers to educate themselves about symptoms, treatments, and disease progression. It’s also essential to balance their health care with support for their mental and emotional needs.
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
People with Parkinson’s can develop symptoms affecting their physical, mental, and psychological health. The most recognizable symptoms of Parkinson’s involve difficulties with motor control (movement-related), including:
- Blinking less frequently
- Bradykinesia (slow movement)
- Challenges with posture or walking
- Cramped or small handwriting
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Hypomimia (mask-like facial expressions)
- Hypophonia (soft speaking voice)
- Rigidity or muscle stiffness
- Tremors (while resting)
- Anosmia (loss of sense of smell)
- Constipation & urinary incontinence
- Orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when standing)
- Parkinson’s disease dementia
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
- Sleep problems
Stages of Parkinson’s Disease
The stages of Parkinson’s and the degree of symptoms can impact how much care a person needs. In the earliest stages of Parkinson’s disease, most people can live independently or without 24-hour caregivers. However, from the middle to late stages, Parkinson’s can limit a person’s ability to safely live alone.
Stage 1: Mild Symptoms
Symptoms in the initial stage of Parkinson’s disease can be mild, typically affecting only one side of the body. Therefore, people experiencing the earliest stage may need minimal support to complete activities of daily living (ADLs) but often do not require a caregiver.
Stage 2: Both Sides
The second stage often involves motor-control symptoms affecting both sides of the body. Symptoms may remain mild but may somewhat interfere with ADLs. Some people experiencing the second stage may require support from a caregiver, as physical tasks can be more challenging. However, many people in the second stage can still live alone.
Caregivers may be needed to provide support with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), including housekeeping, transportation, shopping, and meal preparation. Depending on the individual’s cognitive symptoms, they may still be able to perform most IADLs, such as managing finances, medications, and communication (paying bills, booking appointments, etc.).
Stage 3: Mid-Stage
The mid-stage can be a turning point for the disease, typically occurring 3–7 years after initial symptoms develop. As physical symptoms worsen, falls and injuries become more common. The person may be able to complete some tasks but require more significant support with daily physical activities, including dressing, eating, and personal hygiene.
Caring for a person in the mid-stage mainly focuses on the balance between respecting their dignity and offering the right level of physical care. Caregivers should encourage healthy lifestyle habits, including therapies and physical exercises, to promote physical and mental wellness. Some common options include:
- Exercises to improve balance & coordination
- Healthy diet & nutrition
- Physical, occupation, & speech therapies
- Muscle strengthening exercises
- Massage therapy (to reduce muscle tension)
- Yoga & tai chi (increasing stretching & flexibility)
Support groups for people living with Parkinson’s can also allow individuals more access to resources and the chance to communicate their feelings. Caregivers can also benefit from joining support groups for their well-being and continuing their education for better care.
People with Parkinson’s may also experience more sleep problems. One example is REM behavioral disorder (RBD), causing thrashing or moving about while still dreaming. Again, caregivers need to be available 24 hours to ensure safety and well-being.
Stage 4: Severe & Limiting
Symptoms in stage 4 can limit physical or mental functions, and the person can not safely live alone. In addition, they may require assistance with mobility, such as a walker or wheelchair.
It can be challenging to predict when non-motor symptoms may worsen, but they can become more severe in later stages. Generally, the longer a person has Parkinson’s, the more likely they will develop psychosis and dementia.
24-hour care is necessary to keep the person safe and offer appropriate support for their physical, mental, and emotional needs. It’s also crucial that loved ones take steps to prevent caregiver burnout. The increasing demand for support and medical care may require respite care, a team of qualified caregivers, or specialized senior care.
Stage 5: Advanced Stage
Some people never reach the final and most advanced stage of Parkinson’s disease. In the fifth stage, they may only experience some severe symptoms or multiple progressive symptoms. People with Parkinson’s are often bedridden in the advanced stage, and medications have a limited effect.
A person in the advanced stage is likely to experience more non-movement symptoms, including mood disorders, pain, and cognitive changes. About 20–40% of people with Parkinson’s experience hallucinations or delusions.
Like the previous stage, the person living with Parkinson’s benefits from diversified care. Primary caregivers and family members can also benefit from a team approach.
Senior Living Parkinson’s Care
When family caregivers need more support, it may be time for senior living. Every resident in our memory support program has unique needs, interests, and life experiences. Our team personalizes care for their needs, including specialized support for residents living with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or Parkinson’s disease. Our Cresskill community is designed to help residents feel safe and encourage health. Schedule a visit to see our thriving community today!