Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, actor Michael J. Fox and late singer Johnny Cash had one thing in common; they were all diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a neuro-degenerative disorder that currently affects one million Americans. That is more people than those with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease combined.
If your loved one has Parkinson’s, the famous faces listed above are proof that they can live a full life if proper treatment is received. In honor of Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we look at important facts surrounding this disease.
What is Parkinson's Disease (PD)?PD is a chronic and progressive disorder that affects a person’s brain. Parkinson’s depletes and kills healthy brain cells called neurons. It affects an individual’s movement, speech, memory and coordination. Since it’s a progressive disorder, symptoms worsen over time.
Right now, the cause is unknown and there is not a cure. There are treatment methods, however, that may effectively improve your loved one’s quality of life.
What are the Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease?A person with this disease will have different Parkinson’s disease symptoms as it progresses. Typical physical changes include:
- Tremors in their extremities especially in the hands
- Slower movements
- Stiffness in limbs
- Difficulty with balance and mobility
Secondary Parkinson’s disease symptoms include depression, anxiety and dementia.
Who is Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease?According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, one million Americans live with PD. On average, 60,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year. This number does not account for the cases that go undetected.
An adult is more likely to receive a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis after age 60, but 4% of people diagnosed each year haven’t yet reached their 50th birthday.
Men are nearly twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s then women.
How can a Caregiver Help with Parkinson's Treatment?It is possible for your loved one to live a relatively comfortable and healthy life after receiving a Parkinson’s diagnosis. As an adult child, you can assist them with tasks like medication management and diet to help them thrive. Other tips include:
- Help your parent perform activities that benefit their symptoms. These exercises include painting, tai-chi and walks. Staying active is critical to delaying the progression of the disease.
- Make sure they have proper assistive devices such as a walker or cane.
- Check for hazards in their home like throw rugs and sharp corners. These create fall risks, which increase due to their loss of stability.
Remember to take care of yourself, as well. If you’re a caregiver for a loved one with Parkinson’s, consider joining a support group. It provides you with another avenue for learning more about PD and sharing caregiving tips with peers who are struggling with similar issues.