Whether you are a professional home caregiver or a loved one taking on the responsibility of caregiving, caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease requires a special skill set. The disease is very individualized and presents itself differently in each person, meaning that both you and the person with Parkinson’s disease will have to constantly adapt to changes and situations as they develop. As Parkinson’s progresses, verbal communication can become very challenging. All of these factors make caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease particularly unique and often difficult to cope with.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Imagine slowly losing control of your motor skills; your handwriting becomes shaky, walking becomes difficult, and even your voice starts to change and sound hoarse. This is what it’s like in the beginning stages of Parkinson’s disease. As the disease progresses, the nervous system is slowly taken over by tremors, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movements. The disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, with symptoms worsening over time, and primarily affects middle-aged and elderly people.
Tips for Caring for Someone with Parkinson’s Disease
If you are caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease, there are several tips that can help make the process easier on both the caregiver and the person who has Parkinson’s. As always, it is important to consult with medical professionals when administering and managing medication and treatment for someone who has Parkinson’s disease.
1. Learn about the Disease
The first step in caring for someone who has any kind of disorder is to learn as much as you can about the disorder and how to put the best kind of care plan in place. Consult with the person’s doctor and ask any questions you may have regarding Parkinson’s disease. There is plenty of literature available both online and in print about Parkinson’s disease, and you can even read about the disease together with the person who is in your care.
Another useful tip when learning about Parkinson’s disease is to monitor the news for any updates about treatments, caregiving, and new medications. Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but treatments include exercise, medication, and physical therapy.
2. Keep a Record
Since Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, changes will develop. Medications for Parkinson’s need to be particularly precise, so any changes that occur need to be reported to a medical professional. Changes can include physical, mental, and emotional traits.
As a caregiver, you are the eyes and ears of the physicians when the person in your care is not in the doctor’s office. Keeping a record of daily activities and changes that occur will help physicians understand how the disease is progressing and what steps need to be taken to best manage the course of treatment. You can also make note of positive developments, which could indicate that certain treatments are working better than others.
3. Get Support
If you’re caring for a loved one who has Parkinson’s disease, it’s natural to want to give as much as yourself as possible. But if you truly want your loved one to receive the best care possible, getting support is important. Support comes in many forms. Physicians can offer support by providing information about the disease. Parkinson’s support groups exist for both caregivers and people who have the disease. And professional caregivers are available to assist you either part-time or full-time depending on the stage of the disease and the person’s individual needs.
If you’re a professional caregiver who is caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease, support groups can be beneficial for you, too. Don’t be afraid to rely on your home care agency for support, especially when it comes to creating care plans for people who have Parkinson’s disease.
4. Set Attainable Goals
When someone has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it’s best to set goals and discuss plans as early as possible, before the disease progresses to a stage in which verbal communication is difficult. In addition to possible treatment plans for managing the disease, plans will also need to be made for wills, end of life decisions, property management, and advanced directives. All of these topics are highly sensitive and are best carried out with compassion and care. It’s a caregiver’s role to be understanding while also offering sound advice, or enlisting the support of professionals who can assist with planning difficult tasks.
While Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, it is helpful to set treatment goals for managing the symptoms. Goals can be set for improving mobility issues either through medication or physical therapy and exercise. There may also be goals that the person wants to accomplish before the disease progresses to a severe stage, such as traveling to a new country, learning a new skill, or wrapping up unfinished projects or business. When setting and planning goals, careful guidance is required in order to prevent over-exertion or frustration when goals are not attainable. It can help to set smaller goals first and add onto them once they have been completed.
5. Practice Self-Care
Caregiving is a 24/7 job, even when you are off the clock. It is a role that requires constant compassion, patience, and understanding, and can take quite the emotional toll. In order to best care for someone with Parkinson’s disease, take care of yourself. If you burn out, both you and the person who has Parkinson’s will suffer for it.
Self-care practices include things like regularly getting a good night’s sleep, eating healthy, and getting at least moderate exercise. Self-care can also include setting time aside for yourself, joining a support group, and accomplishing your own goals that you’ve set for yourself both professionally and recreationally.
If you’re caring for a loved one who has Parkinson’s disease, hiring a professional home caregiver will relieve much of the stress and day-to-day burden of caregiving tasks. This will also free up your schedule to spend quality time with your loved one instead of using all of your time with them for caregiving.
If you have a loved one who has Parkinson’s disease and are interested in caregiving services, Alegre Home Care is here to help. You can reach us anytime at (800) 598-4777