Living with Parkinson’s Disease
By Joan Weems, RN, Texoma LIVING WELL Magazine
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of certain nerve cells in the brain that normally produce a chemical called dopamine, which helps the brain direct and control smooth, coordinated function of the body’s muscles and movement. In Parkinson’s disease, these dopamine-producing nerve cells break down and die or become impaired. When 80% of those dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are seen.
Signs and Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease:
Shaking (tremor) in hands, arms, legs, jaw and face
Rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk
Slowness of movement
Postural instability or impaired balance and coordination
A person with fully developed Parkinson’s disease may also have a stooped posture, a blank stare or fixed facial expression, speech problems, and problems with balance or walking. He or she may also have confusion and memory loss.
The cause of the disease is unknown. Parkinson’s disease usually begins in middle or late life. The disease usually progresses gradually over many years, often at different rates in different people. There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. There are medications that relieve many symptoms of the disease. Surgery also can be effective in a small number of people to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Treatment is different for every person, and the type of treatment you will need may change as the disease progresses. Your age, work status, family, and living situation can all affect decisions about when to begin treatment, what types of treatment to use, and when to make changes in treatment. As your medical condition changes, you may need regular adjustments in your treatment to balance quality-of-life issues, side effects of treatment, and treatment costs.
While there is no special diet required for people with Parkinson’s disease, eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is extremely beneficial. With the proper diet, our bodies work more efficiently, we have more energy, and Parkinson’s disease medications will work properly. Eat a variety of foods from each food category. You might need to take a daily vitamin supplement. Maintain your ideal weight that your physician approves through a proper balance of exercise and food. Include high-fiber foods such as vegetables, cooked dried peas and beans, whole-grain foods, bran, cereals, pasta, rice, and fresh fruit in your diet. Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Try to limit sugars.
- Moderate your use of salt.
- Drink eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day.
- Ask your doctor about drinking alcoholic beverages (alcohol may interfere with some of your medications).
Falls are a frequent complication of Parkinson’s disease, and preventing falls is very important. While there are many things that you can do to reduce your risk for falls, the two most important things are to work with your doctor to ensure that your treatments are optimal and to consult with a physical therapist who can assess your walking and balance. The physical therapist is the expert when it comes to recommending assistive devices or exercises to improve safety. Here are tips for preventing falls around the home:
- Floors: Remove all loose wires, cords, and throw rugs. Minimize clutter. Make sure rugs are anchored and smooth. Keep furniture in its accustomed place.
- Bathroom: Install grab bars and nonskid tape in the tub or shower. Use nonskid bath mats on the floor or install wall-to-wall carpeting.
- Kitchen: Install nonskid rubber mats near the sink and stove. Clean up spills immediately
- Lighting: Make sure halls, stairways, and entrances are well lit. Install a night light in your bathroom or hallway. Make sure there is a light switch at the top and bottom of the staircase. Turn lights on if you get up in the middle of the night. Make sure lamps or light switches are within reach of the bed if you have to get up during the night.
- Stairs: Make sure treads, rails, and rugs are secure. Install a rail on both sides of the stairs. If stairs are a threat, it may be helpful to arrange most of your activities on the lower level to reduce the number of times stairs must be climbed.
If you or a loved one has Parkinson’s disease, and you need home health services, Victory Home Health and Hospice can help teach you to manage your disease, medications, check your home for safety, and have a physical therapist come to your home to set up an exercise regimen and recommend medical equipment to keep you safe at home.
If you have any questions about your healthcare, Victory Home Health & Hospice plus Medical Equipment is in your community to serve you. We would love to have you come by and visit or give us a call at 888-815-7922. Our doors are always welcome to you.