In honor of Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we tapped a local caregiving expert for tips on identifying and caring for loved ones with Parkinson’s.
Nearly 90,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Parkinsons’ disease (PD) each year—approximately the amount of fans the Rose Bowl Stadium in Cali holds. It’s a staggering number that continues to rise year over year.
If you’re not familiar, the disease is a chronic, progressive brain disorder that causes uncontrollable body movements, muscle stiffness and balance problems—but, with early detection and expert care, those diagnosed with PD can still live a long and meaningful life. Notable figures with PD in the public eye include Michale J. Fox (who famously started a foundation and has testified on Capitol Hill to raise awareness and find a cure), Alan Alda, Muhammad Ali, among many others.
“Accurately diagnosing Parkinson’s disease is important so your loved one can receive the proper treatment and advice regarding the recommended care,” says Raleigh caregiving expert Ken Helmuth of Right at Home. So, in honor of Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we chatted up Helmuth for helpful tips on identifying and caring for loved ones with PD.
- Educate yourself: Research education materials that can help you understand the disease and its progression, and be honest with yourself, as well as your loved one who has been diagnosed with PD.
- Be consistent: Once your loved one is diagnosed with PD, it is important to be consistent with the doctor’s appointments and stay on top of your insurance coverage and changes.
- Be observant: As a caregiver for someone with PD, experts recommend you watch for changes in condition, be flexible and able to go with the flow, promote independence while taking adequate safety measures, and ensure that any and all medications are taken appropriately and on time.
- Be honest with each other: Start an open dialogue for tough (but important) conversations with your loved one where you come to an agreement about when they truly need help.
- Attend doctors’ appointments: Go along to ask questions, take notes, and share your unique perspective on symptoms or other issues your loved one may not bring up.
- Stay on top of insurance: Familiarize yourself with the terms of your health insurance. You’ll need to know details about if and to what extent your plan covers prescriptions, therapy sessions and other unexpected items.