Living Well with Parkinson’s Disease

Have you or a loved one recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD)? Below, we outline some of the symptoms, the 5 stages, causes, and risk factors. To additionally help you during this difficult time of a recent diagnosis, we encourage you to download our complimentary Parkinson’s Disease Guide to help you through your journey.

Nearly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD each year and approximately 10 million people worldwide live with the disease today. By 2030, almost 1.2 million Americans will be diagnosed with PD.

According to the Mayo Clinic, PD is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. While symptoms look different for each individual, the disease can often go unnoticed in the beginning stages. PD can start with a gradual tremor in one hand, but as the disease progresses, symptoms can begin to affect both sides of the body.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Those with PD can experience both motor and non-motor symptoms. As the disease progresses, some individuals experience tremors in the face, legs, arms, and hands. It’s not uncommon for adults to experience hand trembling while resting or have the tendency to rub between the forefinger and thumb. Rigidity is also a common symptom of the disease, resulting in muscle stiffness, which can limit the range of motion and become painful, especially if it lasts for long periods of time. PD can cause delayed movements in speech and gait, such as walking with shorter steps or dragging your feet while walking. Speech can also come across with hesitation, softness, or slurring words. Many of these symptoms are due to a loss of neurons that produce a chemical called dopamine. When these levels become too high, it can cause abnormal brain activity. While the cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown, there are some factors that can increase the risk of developing the disease later on.

Causes and Risk Factors

While researchers are continuing to study the disease to determine a cause, there are some factors that play a role in the development of PD. According to Hopkins Medicine, there are a few risk factors that can contribute to Parkinson’s disease:

Genes: There has been evidence of specific genetic mutations directly relating to PD but it is rare to develop them unless PD is present in many family members.
Environmental Triggers: It is possible that some toxins or environmental factors could contribute to getting PD. An exposure to chemicals used in farming, such as herbicides or pesticides; working with metals, solvents, and detergents could also contribute. While these may trigger PD, it is not believed they cause PD.
Lewy Bodies: Microscopic markers of PD in brain cells are called Lewy bodies. It is believed they hold an important clue to the cause of PD.
Age: It is rare for young adults to be diagnosed with PD. On average it develops mid to late in life around age 60 or older.
Heredity: While your risk may increase if you have a close relative with the PD, the risks are actually still quite small unless many relatives in your family have the disease.
Sex: Men tend to develop Parkinson’s disease more than women. In fact, one study suggests that men have a 1.5 times greater risk of developing the disease compared to women.
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What are the 5 Stages of Parkinson’s Disease?

The stages of PD may vary from person to person. The stages listed below are a guideline of what one might experience; however, everyone experiences symptoms differently. Other concurring illnesses or environmental factors may impact progression.

Stage One: Mild symptoms tend not to interfere with daily activities. A person may start to show subtle changes in posture, walking and/or facial expressions.

Stage Two: While the person may still be capable of living alone, symptoms will begin to progress. They may experience tremors, rigidity, and other movement symptoms on both sides of their body.

Stage Three: This is considered to be mid-stage. Individuals may experience a movement slowdown and loss of balance, putting them at a higher risk for falls. The individual should still be able to remain quite independent but may need assistance with tasks such as dressing and eating.

Stage Four: At this stage, symptoms will most likely begin to affect day-to-day activities. While individuals may stand unaided, they could benefit from assistance with walking, such as a walker. To ensure the individuals remain safe, work with the care team to assess for safety in the home.

Stage Five: At this stage, an individual will need 24/7 care. Mobility is compromised. They will need assistance with personal care and may need adaptive equipment, such as a wheelchair. During this stage, connection, companionship, and comfort are imperative to their overall wellness.

Resources for Living a Normal Life with Parkinson’s

Learning how to cope with PD can feel like an impossible and lonely job. However, there are so many resources created specifically for those dealing with the disease. Some organizations specialize in creating resources that give comfort and support to PD patients, families, and caregivers. Here are a few of them:

For learning about the disease
The Parkinson’s Foundation offers expert briefings webinars that offer first-hand access to PD research and practical tips for managing the disease from experts. The foundation also has podcasts with topics that discuss treatments, research, clinical trials, and more.

• The Michael J. Fox Foundation has compiled a list of books and resources to teach you more about the disease and offer first-hand experiences.

For living with the disease
The Parkinson’s Resource Organization has created a virtual support group network that meets online multiple times a month. The organization has different types of meetings specifically designed for caregivers, community members, researchers, and of course, those living with the disease.

• The American Parkinson Disease Association offers a complete calendar of programs and events ranging from educational programs to tips on managing your symptoms.

For caregivers and families
• The Parkinson’s Resource Organization offers resources specifically designed for caregivers and family members. These resources include newsletters, educational meetings, and even one-on-one sessions with a PD specialist.

Navigating Parkinson’s Disease at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, our nurses meet with residents and their families, assess needs, and develop a specified plan to meet their requirements. Learning how to live with PD can be difficult for those diagnosed with the disease and their families; however, Maplewood Senior Living is dedicated to making it feel a little easier. Our complimentary and downloadable Parkinson’s Disease Guide is a comprehensive resource for families with someone who has been newly diagnosed or looking for advice as to how to proceed.

If you would like to discuss your diagnosis with someone on our team or schedule a tour, please contact us today.

What You Need to Know About Parkinson’s Disease

By definition, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects the area of the brain that controls movement. Brain changes caused by the disease can affect a person’s gait, facial expressions, posture and, as it progresses, can begin to interfere with memory and the ability to make sound judgments. Parkinson’s is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, Parkinson’s disease affects nearly 2% of older adults over the age of 65, accounting for nearly one million cases. The symptoms of Parkinson’s can look different on each person, depending on when the diagnosis occurs within the progression of the disease. However, there are some common symptoms most PD patients experience.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Those with Parkinson’s disease can experience both motor and non-motor symptoms. The first signs of Parkinson’s are often so subtle that they go unnoticed. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms tend to get worse. Here are the most common symptoms according to the Mayo Clinic :

Tremors in the face, legs, arms and hands. Tremors, which usually appear as shaking in the limbs, hands or fingers, are very common among Parkinson’s patients. Some people might experience hand trembling while resting or rubbing between the forefinger and thumb.

Rigidity. Muscle stiffness can occur in any part of the body and become painful if it lasts for long periods of time. Many people who experience rigidity have a limited range of motion and trouble walking.

Slowness. Parkinson’s can cause delayed movements and make basic daily tasks hard to complete. Other symptoms include walking with shorter steps or dragging your feet while walking.

Loss of automatic movements. Unconscious movements such as blinking, smiling and swallowing become more difficult as the disease progresses.

Changes in speech. Some individuals with Parkinson’s disease experience changes in their speech such as hesitation, softness, quickness of speech or slurring words.

Causes and Risk Factors

While researchers are still gathering data on Parkinson’s disease, we do know that there are several factors that increase the risk of developing the disease. Researchers have shown that some specific genetic mutations are directly related to Parkinson’s disease. However, it’s rare to develop these mutations unless the disease is present in many family members. There are also other mutations that increase the risk of PD, but do not directly cause the disease.
In addition, some researchers have suggested that ongoing exposure to toxins, such as herbicides and pesticides can slightly increase the risk of PD. It’s also been proven that older adults, most of whom are diagnosed around the age of 60, are more at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease when compared to younger adults, just as men are more at risk than women.

Related Health Conditions

Those who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may experience other health concerns. These issues usually arise after the disease has progressed. These are some of the most common health conditions related to Parkinson’s disease according to the Mayo Clinic:

Dementia

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation , nearly one million Americans have been diagnosed with the disease. Of those diagnosed, nearly 50 percent to 80 percent may experience dementia. Most adults who develop dementia are diagnosed 10 years after the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Along with the typical symptoms of PD, some people with Parkinson’s disease dementia have reported changes in memory, muffled speech, visual hallucinations, depression, daytime drowsiness and anxiety.

Depression and Emotional Changes

These are common problems for those in any stage of the disease, especially for those who have been newly diagnosed. Other emotional changes such as fear, anxiety and loss of motivation are common and can be treated with medication.

Sleep Disorders

Those with Parkinson’s disease often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. Rapid eye movement, which involves acting out your dreams, is also common for those with the disease. These sleep disorders can cause fatigue, especially later in the day. Doctors and healthcare providers can prescribe medications to pacify these problems.

Bladder and Constipation

Some people with PD have reported issues with controlling their bladder and having difficulty urinating. Constipation also accompanies Parkinson’s disease due to the slowing of the digestive tract.

Changes in Blood Pressure

It’s not uncommon to feel lightheaded due to a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Pain

Because of the changes in the brain, PD patients often experience pain. This pain can be felt all over the body or concentrated in certain areas.

Treatment Options

While there is no standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease, there are some treatments designed to help manage the symptoms. Treatments can include medications to manage tremors, stress and sleep problems. Other alternatives, like surgery, is reserved for patients who have trouble managing tremors with medication. Traditionally, exercise and therapies are standard treatment options that help with improving flexibility and balance, while reducing rigidity.
Because there is a lot we do not understand about Parkinson’s disease, there are many clinical trials designed to gather more information. These trials include testing new treatments, such as medications, surgery or therapies on existing PD patients in hopes of creating a new successful treatment option.

Living with Parkinson’s Disease

Learning how to navigate life as Parkinson’s disease progresses can be difficult. As part of the diagnosis, the biggest challenges can be managing overall health and wellness including managing medication appropriately, getting enough exercise while remaining flexible and managing stress and anxiety. While some people living with the disease may wish to remain at home with a caregiver, other options, like assisted living, can provide additional support and peace of mind for the caretaker. Here are a few ways assisted living communities can help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease:

Health and Wellness– A medical management team, provided at most assisted living communities, can help control symptoms of PD, while minimizing adverse effects. They can also provide individualized care planning, help with medication administration and provide nutritionally balanced and healthy meals reviewed by a Registered Dietician.
Exercise and Fitness– Exercise can slow down the disease progression and help enhance motor function. Assisted living communities offer daily group exercise classes, individual fitness programs and physical, occupational and speech therapies to help reduce the loss of motor function and increase flexibility.
Managing Stress and Anxiety– Unmanaged stress and anxiety can actually make PD symptoms, like tremors and rigidity, worse. Assisted living communities can help manage stress through psychology and psychiatry services, counseling, music therapy and social programs to connect residents that have similar challenges.

Managing Parkinson’s at Maplewood Senior Living

Because Parkinson’s disease is both a chronic and progressive illness, those who have been diagnosed need high-quality care both physically and emotionally. At Maplewood Senior Living , our assisted living communities are highly skilled in caring for those with Parkinson’s in many ways, such as providing medical attention and offering activities designed to promote physical and mental wellness. If you’re interested in learning more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, we would love to connect with you here.