8 Tips for Caring for Someone With Parkinson’s
Caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease presents unique challenges, as the disease affects both motor and non-motor functions. Many people with Parkinson’s continue to live at home and work, with their life partner, a family member, or a friend providing day-to-day assistance. But as the disease progresses, symptoms can worsen or change.
If you’re caring for someone who has Parkinson’s, here are some of the common challenges they may experience, along with tips to help you provide the best care possible.
- Medication management:
- Parkinson’s disease medications are often time sensitive. Ensure they’re taken on schedule.
- Be aware of potential side effects and discuss any changes you see with the healthcare team.
- Movement and mobility:
- Be patient. Movements can be slow and may require more time.
- Watch for freezing episodes, where the person may feel stuck and can’t move. A gentle touch or cue can help.
- Invest in good non-slip footwear to prevent falls.
- Swallowing difficulties:
- Thickening agents, such as cornstarch, can be used if liquids are too hard to swallow.
- Keep meals small and frequent.
- Encourage the person to sit upright while eating.
- Encourage clear, slow speech.
- Speech therapy can be beneficial.
- Use alternative communication tools if necessary, like pen and paper or apps.
- Weighted utensils can help with eating.
- Button hooks, zipper pulls, and velcro can make getting dressed easier.
- Sleep issues:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule and a calming bedtime routine.
- Limit their intake of caffeine or other stimulants that may affect their sleep.
- Discuss any sleep problems with the healthcare team, as medications or other interventions may help.
- Cognitive and mood changes:
- Encourage activities that stimulate the brain, like puzzles, reading, or music.
- Be patient and understanding with memory challenges.
- Watch for signs of depression or anxiety and seek professional help if needed.
- Hallucinations and delusions:
- Reassure them calmly and gently. For instance, if they say they see a stranger in the room, you might say, “I’m here with you, and you’re safe.”
- Even if you don’t validate the content of the hallucination or delusion, you can validate their feelings. For instance, “I understand that it’s scary for you.”
- Hallucinations or delusions may be side effects of medications. The healthcare team may make adjustments.
Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is that you’re not alone. Use the resources and referrals the healthcare team provides. Consider joining a support group, and remember to take care of yourself.
The professional team at LifeCare Advocates is available to support you in many ways. We have a Parkinson’s specialist plus physical therapists and occupational therapists who have experience in assisting individuals and families in navigating the disease process.
In addition, we can arrange and manage back-up care or housekeeping, provide transportation to and from doctor appointments, research long-term care facilities based on your loved one’s needs and preferences, and more.
Our goal is to help you spend as much quality time with your loved one as possible. Please contact us to find out more about how we can help.