What is Parkinson’s disease?
Approximately 80,000 Australians live with Parkinson’s disease. It’s important to raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease and to know how to support those in our community who live with this difficult disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disease. This means that it affects the nervous system and tends to get worse over time. It is also more frequent in older people, although Young Onset Parkinson’s can occur. It causes nerve cells to degenerate, leading to a lack of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter – this means it’s a type of chemical that allows nerves to communicate to each other.
Doctors do not know the exact cause of Parkinson’s disease, although they are investigating genetic and environmental factors. It is usually diagnosed by a neurologist using a variety of tests and assessments. The good news is that it can be managed. Medicine and surgery may be explored as possible treatments, as well as lifestyle changes to accommodate for new support needs and incorporate changes to diet, exercise and work arrangements.
Every person who has Parkinson’s disease will have a different set of symptoms and experiences. It is classified as a movement disorder but it can also have a range of non-motor symptoms such as gastrointestinal symptoms or pain. Some of the most common are:
- Muscle tremors
- A slow way of moving and walking/freezing up
- Impaired posture and balance
- Speech difficulties
- Muscle stiffness
- Depression or anxiety
There are more possible symptoms, and there is no telling exactly how it will play out. If you have a loved one with Parkinson’s disease, it’s important to get to know their individual challenges and support them in the best way you can.
What support does a person with Parkinson’s disease need?
As we described above, each case of Parkinson’s disease is different and so is the experience of each person. This means that everybody will have different support needs and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. It is important to assess each individual person and work with an effective multidisciplinary team to provide the best support for each and every individual.
Some common support needs are:
- Help with daily personal care such as showering, brushing teeth, and washing hair
- Medication management
- Assistance with meal preparation
- Physical therapy/exercise
- Assistance with leisure activities
- Assistance getting to and from appointments
- Assistance with maintaining the home and doing daily care tasks such as cleaning
How you can support a loved one:
You can support a loved one by learning about Parkinson’s disease from reliable sources such as Parkinson’s Australia. Their practical support needs are likely to change over time. You can talk to your loved one’s support team and work to gain an understanding of their unique experience and needs. Make sure you listen to your loved one as they are the expert of their own body. Additionally, a mental health professional such as a counsellor can help you and your loved one to cope during a difficult time.
If you are providing care, remember to look after yourself as well – you need to rest and take care of your mental health in order to provide the best support possible. It may be helpful to get a carer in so that you can have some days off while having peace of mind that your loved one is being looked after. Make sure you choose a reputable company with trained staff and good service. Don’t be afraid to do your research and choose one that sits right with you and your loved one.
How Focused Health Care can help:
We are an Approved Home Care Provider with My Aged Care and a registered NDIS provider. We have support workers and nurses who can deliver empathetic, thoughtful and supportive care to people with Parkinson’s disease. We will take the time to understand your unique support needs and provide you with help to live a fulfilling life.