How Can Seniors and Caregivers Manage Parkinson’s Disease While Living at Home?

Seniors Managing Parkinson’s While Living at Home.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that can present with debilitating symptoms that completely alter a senior’s way of living and carrying out functional tasks.

We are going to discuss basic information about what Parkinson’s disease entails, how it’s treated, and how seniors (and family members) can modify their lifestyles and adopt exercises that will help minimize symptoms and improve overall living.

What is Parkinson’s disease (PD)?

PD is a brain disorder which impacts dopamine-producing neurons. Neurons are the cells that make up brain tissue, and there are millions upon millions located in one human brain.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for multiple purposes: emotion, memory, motivation, and coordination of movement.

There are four classic signs of PD, of which people will exhibit all or some of:

  • Bradykinesia or slowing of movement
  • Limb rigidity, or rigid movements of the arms and legs
  • Tremors, or involuntary shaking
  • Walking and balance problems (Parkinson’s Foundation, 2021)

There are several types of PD, some which may not display the 4 classic signs consistently.

For example, Lewy bodies dementia will present with Parkinson-like symptoms as well as serious cognitive deterioration, such as seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

The cause of PD is primarily unknown, but researchers have made links to genetic and environmental causes.

 

How is Parkinson’s Treated?

There are multiple treatment avenues for PD, depending on the symptoms and severity of the disorder.

In early stages, doctors may introduce dopamine-based medication such as Levadopa which helps minimize movement irregularities.

In advanced stages where medication is no longer working, physicians may suggest more invasive procedures such as neurosurgery.

What is The Best Way to Perform ADLS at Home If You Have Parkinson’s Disease?

Aside from pharmacological treatments, clinicians will also suggest rehabilitative and lifestyle interventions to be used regularly at home.

Physical and occupational therapists will make several suggestions on how to safely carry out activities of daily living (ADLs) at home, including some of the following:

  • Fall prevention
  • Safe use of durable medical equipment (canes, walkers, wheelchairs)
  • Use of adaptive equipment (Shower chairs, toilet risers, grab bars, self-feeding and meal preparation tools, reachers, dressing tools, hygiene tools, etc).
  • Environmental modifications (moving furniture, limiting tripping hazards,
  • Gait training to minimize falls at home.
  • Family/caregiver education and training to help loved ones safely guide the person with PD without injuring themselves.
  • Cognitive training and tricks for more complex tasks such as medication management, safety and security, phone communication, work, and financial management.

The best ways to perform ADLs at home is in the safest manner possible.

This includes keeping up on regular medication schedules, using medical equipment when necessary, and having a loved one around if a senior would like to attempt more complex tasks on their own.

What Things Should You Avoid or Prevent While Performing Activities at Home with Parkinson’s Disease?

One of the most important things to avoid is falling in the home, especially while alone and with no way to contact others for help.

If a senior with PD would like to participate in a task that could compromise their balance (scaling the stairs, watering the lawn, doing household tasks in standing, participating in bathroom tasks on slippery floors, etc.), make sure that a loved one is around for close supervision and in case an emergency occurs.

Make sure that a senior with PD always has access to help, even if it’s by phone or by a fall alarm system.

Additionally, make sure that the senior as the cognitive, visual, and auditory capacity to use the emergency communication system if a medical emergency in their home occurs.

What Are The Recommended Exercises and Activities For Seniors with Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease should not be considered a life sentence in which a senior is completely restricted in their movement for fear of falling.

If anything, seniors with Parkinson’s disease should be taking every opportunity to move in the safest manners as possible. Some of the following exercises and activities have proven to be effective for seniors with Parkinson’s disease .

Full body movements:

  • Dancing
  • Walks
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • In-home aerobics
  • Biking
  • Pilates
  • Weight-training
  • Running

Fine motor movements:

  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • I-Pad games
  • Writing
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Sewing/knitting, crocheting
  • Beadwork
  • Painting/drawing

Cognitive training

  • Memory games
  • Matching games
  • Reading/writing
  • Trivia games
  • Interactive video games
  • Story-telling

There’s not a “one-size fits al”l exercise regimen for every senior with Parkinson’s disease .

Choose the exercises and activities that pique your interest and work within your capabilities and goals.

Consult with a doctor if you have any questions about in participating physically intense exercises.

What Are Some Recommended Tips for Community Participation While Living with Parkinson’s disease?

Again, Parkinson’s disease should not be treated as a life sentence so that seniors are unable to leave their homes.

Seniors with Parkinson’s disease can be more than capable of participating in community activities outside the home.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms and the type of Parkinson’s disease , each senior should consider the following tips and precautions before leaving the house:

  • Have a charged phone on you in the event of an emergency.
  • Make sure that you are up to date on your medication schedule prior to leaving. Bring medication with you if you plan on being gone for several hours.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather, especially if you will be walking. Sun hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, jackets, umbrella gloves, coats, scarves, sturdy shoes…consider everything before leaving the house to prevent exposure injuries.
  • Plan your trips accordingly and take on only what you think you can manage. Make sure you have someone accompany you for longer trips or errands or routes that you are unfamiliar with.
  • Use medical equipment as necessary or as prescribed by your doctor: wheelchairs, walkers, canes, etc.
  • Practice safety awareness to prevent falls. Be aware of uneven walking surfaces (sidewalk cracks, door thresholds, curbs, loose rocks, etc.).

Summary

Seniors living with Parkinson’s disease face many obstacles due to physical (and sometimes cognitive) symptoms that accompany the disorder.

However, with the right approach and lifestyle adjustments, seniors with Parkinson’s disease can thrive just as well as their peers (if not better) who do not have Parkinson’s disease .

Stay updated on your medical management with a primary physician.   Attend regular rehabilitative services (occupational and physical therapy).

Accept help from family and loved ones when you need. Make your safety and wellness a high priority in everything you do, and you can maintain a high quality of life.

 

References

What is Parkinson’s? (2021). Parkinson’s Foundation. https://www.parkinson.org/understanding-parkinsons/what-is-parkinsons. Viewed on May 27, 2021.

 

 

 

Author: Samuel

Samuel is a physical therapist with over 20 years medical experience. He has extensive knowledge in functional rehabilitation in the acute care hospital and in-home care settings. He has spent most of his career helping seniors transition from hospital or rehab care to living independently at home. In his free time he likes to travel and read autobiographies.

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