ARTICLES / Parkinson's /
How To Be A Parkinson's Caregiver /
By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer
As any caregiver knows, Parkinsonís disease is
both chronic and progressive. It persists over a
long period of time and the symptoms worsen. Often
the disease has been present for many years before
active care even is necessary. This fact alone can
bring many challenges along the way. A loved one
secretly may have adapted their life to this
condition, hiding any symptoms.
When the time for care arises, a caregiver first
has to take inventory of what is working and what
isnít. A caregiver may have believed their loved
one was perfectly fine, and come to realize the
truth is far from that. A caregiver for someone with
Parkinsonís must be very organized, informed,
patient and able to modify daily life to any
situation that may arise.
In the latter stages, itís important for a
caregiver to take a step back and not become totally
entrenched in the caregiving and uninvolved in their
own life. Since Parkinsonís can persist for many
years, by the time the latter stage arrives, a
seasoned caregiver will be an ďold pro.Ē
There is no ďacross-the-boardĒ standard for how
Parkinsonís affects any given patient. Just as
everyone is different, every personís reaction will
be unique. The most common symptoms are tremors,
muscle stiffness and slow movement.
These symptoms intensify as the disease progresses
and alone can cause problems in daily living
activities. A caregiver must be constantly
evaluating what condition their loved one is in.
Parkinsonís is unpredictable and a loved one may be
resistant to take assistance for as long as they can
hold out. This makes caregiving more complicated.
However, it is their caregiverís responsibility to
help keep them, above all, safe in any environment.
One important tip is to initially ask a loved one
what they need, and not assume. During the latter
stages, a caregiver should be familiar enough to
anticipate and prepare for a loved oneís needs.
In the latter stage of the disease, movement
itself becomes nearly impossible. A simple task as
dressing could take a person with Parkinsonís
disease literally all day to accomplish. Walking is
very slow, if at all. A lack of balance causes
frequent falls and automatic movements, like the
swinging of arms when walking, disappear. A
caregiver should try to not be frustrated, but
instead, be patient, and respond with love and
As the disease progresses, communication
difficulties and heightened anxiety become more
prevalent. In the early stages, a loved one is able
to hide symptoms easily, but as the tremors and
stiffness worsen, a joke about getting older may be
a good cover-up for the fact that daily duties are
becoming harder and harder to handle.
What can a caregiver do? Get help!
With a loved one in the advanced stages of
Parkinsonís disease, it is nearly impossible to
handle it alone. Whether in-home care or
out-of-home, help is necessary. Whether in-home or
a permanent move, options are available for
caregivers to find some relief. There are many
kinds of caregivers, from live-in spouses to
long-distance children. No matter the caregiver, a
support system is mandatory!