If youre trying to meet the challenges of someone you love who has Parkinsons Disease, chances are you are not alone. Parkinsons disease is one of the most common movement disorders. About 50,000 Americans are diagnosed withParkinsons Disease, with more than half a million Americans affected at any given time. The average age of onset is sixty years and it affects about one percent of this age group.Onset before 40 years is relatively uncommon but the diagnosis of the actor Michael J. Fox shows that younger people are vulnerable also. Parkinson's disease is a long term medical condition that usually alwaysprogresses in time. There is no cure for the disease at this time, only ways to help control it.Since this is a progressive disease, dealing with the physical and emotion effects Parkinson's disease has on the patient can be difficult, especially the loss of independence. For this reason, patients often develop depression..But the patient is not the only one commonly affected by emotional distress due to this illness. Since this disease moves along at its own pace, in a relentless and progressive manner, the spouse or caretaker of the patient also suffers emotional distress due to the disease.While attending to the special needs of a Parkinson's patient, there are adjustments to everyday life that need to be made. The person who has the disease often finds it physically and mentally demeaning to need this kind of care and attention. Its especially trying for Parkinsons patients if the caretaker happens to be a son or a daughter. And devoted caretakers often report becoming drained on both levels as a result of caring for a loved one whose health is deteriorating.
Those who care for Parkinsons patients also need to make a special effort to take care of themselves. This includes looking after your own health and emotional wellbeing.
Here are a few tips:
Caring for a loved one with Parkinson diseasemay require you to call on a deep source of physical and emotional strength. Many caretakers of these patients have found that joining a support group is beneficial. Even those people who never joined a group before have found comfort and helpful insight by sharing their experiences. Folks who are members of this group are going there for the same reasons you are -- especially for emotional support.
When caretaking for a Parkinson's disease patient, always be sure to plan a set amount of time for yourself.Because your life is so demanding, simple activities that you need to keep you uplifted are too often overlooked. Even if you do not have plans, take the time to read, take a nice walk, watch your favorite television show, meet with a friend for tea, or take a relaxing bath or long steamy shower -- uninterrupted.
Make sure to develop a list of people you can call on to give ou some time for yourself. You may need to call on a professional service. Also, dont forget to use some of your free time to take care of your own physical needs like annual check-ups and visits to the dentist or gym.
Also, give yourself permission to get your hair done, have a facial or a message. All these activities can boost your emotional and physical energy. No guilt allowed.If you are the primary caretaker for a loved one with Parkinson's disease, most likely youll not only have arrange your time, but your home too. Since many Parkinsons patients cannot readily control their physical movements, you might want to rearrange your home to better accommodate their needs, and make the patients daily life safer and easier. For example, you may need to move or eliminate furniture to make paths around the house more accessible. If your Parkinson patients bedroom is up stairs, you will probably have to move it to the ground level.Keep in mind that one the most common symptoms of Parkinson's disease is memory loss. For this reason, dont move familiar items. This does not include the furniture discussed in the previous suggestion. Books, magazines, eye glasses, dishes, and hygiene items should all be kept in the same place. You want to help to avoid as much confusion as possible.Educating yourself about the effects of Parkinson's disease and keeping in close contact with the doctor and other medical professionals will help you be better able to care for your beloved patient and help to ease your own emotional strain and physical efforts.Robin Westen is Thirdages medical reporter. Check for daily updates. She is the author of Ten Days to Detox: How to Look and Feel a Decade Younger (Bantam Dell)See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.