Anyone who has ever helped elderly family members know that getting older is fraught with challenges. These challenges are especially true if your loved one is coping with a significant health issue like Parkinson's.
Parkinson's Disease is one such health condition that brings difficulties for both caregivers and care recipients. This condition attacks the nervous system causing tremors, decreased mobility, loss of balance, and even dementia.
We hear a lot about Parkinson's because many celebrities suffer from the disease. People like Michael J. Fox, Alan Alda, Muhammad Ali, former President George H.W. Bush, Neil Diamond, Ozzy Osbourne, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson are among the many famous people who dealt with this disease.
Despite this, it is possible to help those struggling with Parkinson's achieve a better quality of life. Hopefully, these tips will help you care for a loved one with Parkinson's and help you navigate these difficult years.
Educate Yourself About Parkinson's Disease
When you first hear about your loved one's diagnosis, it's natural to experience a swelling of emotions: shock, fear, and sadness. It is important to allow yourself to feel all these emotions. But by equipping yourself with the necessary knowledge, you can keep the fear from developing into debilitating anxiety and the sadness from becoming immobilizing despair.
Take the time to research the symptoms as well as the typical progression of Parkinson's. Research effective care strategies and resources available. Knowing both what to expect and what tools you have at your disposal will help mitigate any feelings of helplessness.
Your loved one will also have many feelings that he or she is dealing with, including helplessness or a sense of lost independence. The best way to help counteract these feelings is to establish as much normalcy as possible. These are a few key strategies.
Modify Instead of Change
With all the changes you both will face, try not to rush to throw out everything your loved one enjoys doing. Instead, find ways to make these things possible. For example, if they enjoy the outdoors, find hiking venues with more level paths or go with them to help with balance. If they enjoy meeting up with friends for dinner, allow it. But see if one of them can help assist them with eating if possible.
Schedules are Helpful
Establishing a schedule helps give people a sense of purpose and keep up healthy habits. This is important for those with conditions like Parkinson's, especially if they also have dementia. For dementia patients, routines and schedules help reduce anxiety, especially as memory loss increases.
Don't Do Everything Yourself
When you are helping a loved one with Parkinson's, your first instinct may be to rush in and do the task for them. While this may be necessary, if safety is a concern, try to avoid doing every task for them if they can accomplish some of them themselves. For example, they might be able to accomplish a task with the caregiver only 'standing by' instead of a hands-on approach. Allow the care recipient to keep as much of their independence as possible when possible.
Not every day will be easy for both you or your loved one. And being honest about these feelings will help you find ways to cope with them healthily. Make sure you both have others to talk to about these things.
Maintaining a positive attitude helps everyone in the family. Being positive reduces some of the anxiety and depression the condition can cause for both the care recipient and the rest of the family.
Be sure to communicate as it helps avoid isolation. And remember—you are never alone.
Professional Care May Be Required
Depending on the progression of the disease, professional in-home care of care in a long-term care facility care may be required. Remember, families often become caregivers since health insurance, including Medicareand MedicareSupplements, will only pay for a limited amount of skilled long-term care. Only Long-Term Care Insurance will provide benefits for both in-home care and facility care for those lucky enough to have a policy.
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