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How To Be A Parkinson's Caregiver

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer
(Page 1 of 3)

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

Managing Symptoms
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 humor.

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!


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