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Parkinson's Disease: Tips for Caregivers

By Sandra Ray, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 3)

Depending on the situation, your loved one may be able to manage taking medication with little help from you. Dementia, of course, will require extra vigilance. Some of these ideas may help ease the medication worries:

  • Keep medications in their original containers.
  • Keep handy a list of medications that your loved one takes in case someone else needs to dispense medications for you.
  • Take the list to each doctor appointment, especially if you are seeing a physician who isn’t familiar with your situation.
  • Consider using medication “minders” for time of day or days of the week to keep a good system in place.
  • Keep other family members and friends informed about the medication schedule, especially if you are the sole caregiver.

Medications can be expensive, and if prescription insurance is an issue, consider applying to the patient assistance programs available through most of the pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies are required to have patient assistance programs to help those who may not be able to afford chronic medications. These programs are often guided by income and whether or not you have access to prescription insurance. The physician will often have to sign paperwork and provide a valid prescription for the medication that is needed. To find out if your medications are covered by these programs, visit www.rxassist.org or www.needymeds.com. Both of these sites list medications by generic and brand name and provide links to forms that you’ll need to fill out in order to qualify. Eligibility requirements vary according to the company, so read each one before you apply.

Lifestyle Changes:

Parkinson’s disease may not require a dramatic change in your lifestyle overnight, but there will need to be some adjustments made, especially as the disease progresses. For example, physical therapy may be needed in order to adjust to some of the debilitating effects of the movement difficulties that will become more apparent over time. Medication can manage some of these effects, but eventually the medications will lose their effectiveness and physical adjustments will need to be made. Physical therapy can help provide coping mechanisms for the days when your body simply will not move as you want it to.

Finding the right exercise program is important. Many people find that they are able to maintain a fairly active lifestyle, making minor accommodations in the beginning for Parkinson’s. It is important, however, to consider slowing down or limiting certain types of activities due to the disease and its progression. For example, if you and your loved one enjoy swimming, make sure you both go together. If an episode of freezing occurs in the pool, it could be dangerous. Instead of running on a regular basis, walking may become a more pleasurable alternative. There are many activities which require only minor adjustments in timing or scheduling that can keep your lifestyle active without feeling that you are missing too much of your previous activities. It is important to discuss exercise programs with your physician, and he or she may be able to suggest other activities that will keep the body active and healthy at the same time.

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