7 Ways to Help Your Loved One with Parkinson's Disease

daughter kissing mother with Parkinson's on the forehead in kitchen

If you are helping or caring for a loved one with Parkinson's Disease (PD), you have probably seen symptoms develop slowly over time. Each person with PD experiences symptoms differently, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

As a caregiver and/or loved one of someone with PD, the Parkinson’s Foundation advises to closely observe the person over time to detect and respond helpfully to subtle changes in motor function (movement) and mood (feelings). Individuals with PD may not be aware of their changing abilities, so keeping an eye on them may be helpful in avoiding a fall or other health risk.

All About PD

PD is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Its cause remains largely unknown and there is no cure. However, treatment options are available. Affecting motor skills as well as emotions, those with PD may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:

        • Tremors

        • Poor balance

        • Restricted and slower movement

        • Spontaneous activity is no longer possible

        • Changes in walking patterns

        • More prone to falls and fractures

        • Orthostatic hypotension, characterized by a sudden drop in blood pressure when the person is standing. This can lead to lightheadedness and an increased chance of falling.

        • Changes in handwriting and speech

        • Rigid muscles

        • Fixed posture

        • Feeling cold

Bouts of anxiety and depression can also be quite common.

7 Ways to Help

Caring for someone with PD can be challenging."The incidence and severity of PD symptoms vary from day to day and even from one time of day to another. It takes skill and patience to know when to assist with a task and when to simply allow the person more time to do the task independently,” states the Parkinson’s Foundation.

There is no question that those with PD need support and love. The neurological disorder can take a toll on everyone’s emotional and physical health. Here are some tips for caregivers to help with caring for someone with PD:

      1. Communicate

        Communication is a great technique to gauge how the person is feeling and thinking. And you can really notice any changes in speech and behavior when you engage with them verbally and physically.

        Example: If your loved one tells you that they are frightened, you should to sit with them, listen and allow them to do the talking. Instead of saying that everything will be fine, let them know you are there for them.

        senior woman on phone in living room

      2. Keep a Close Watch on Changing Symptoms

        PD causes a deficiency of dopamine, which may lead to depression. So, if you happen to notice sudden changes in mood and behavior, it is best to let their health care provider know right away as it may signal a deterioration in functioning.

      3. Make the Home Setting Safe

        PD is a chronic disease. In advanced stages, a person with PD may be more prone to falls and other injuries. Therefore, it is recommended that safety measures be adopted to make the home environment as accident proof as possible.

        Tips for Home Safety

              • Remove and replace any unstable furniture. Unstable furniture can become unsafe quickly when used for support and may end up being the reason for trips and falls.

              • Keep floors free of clutter and loose rugs. Loose rugs and thick area rugs can be unsafe because people can trip over them.

              • Think about installing safety rails and grab bars in places near bathrooms and toilets. These areas tend to be slippery and present more fall risks.

        4. Encourage Exercise

        According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, exercise is more than healthy for those with PD – it is a vital component to maintaining balance, mobility and activities of daily living. And, exercise can help address many PD symptoms. The Parkinson’s Outcomes Project found people with PD who start exercising earlier and do a minimum of 2.5 hours a week, experience a slow decline in quality of life compared to those who start at a later time. Regular exercise has shown to have positive results for everyone, and especially those with PD. Recommended exercises, approved by a health care professional, may include:

                • Flexibility (stretching)

                • Aerobic activity

                • Resistance training and/or strengthening

                  senior woman stretching on the floor at home

        5. Don't Always Help

        Those with PD want to try and maintain their independence for as long as possible. It is best to allow them to do whatever they are capable of doing. Performing their daily tasks on their own actually helps restore mobility, balance and independence.

        6. Eat Right

        Diet and nutrition are essential to overall health and well-being. Talk with a nutritionist if assistance is needed to ensure balanced, nutritious meals and snacks. Various medications may induce constipation in some cases and eating fiber-rich foods may be advised.

        bowl of oatmeal and blueberries and raspberries

        7. Consider Compression Stockings for Dizziness

        As the disease progresses, dizziness becomes a common occurrence. This happens due to a sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up and can lead to falls and injuries. Ask a physician about wearing compression stockings to help prevent blood from accumulating in the legs.

        Care for Caregivers

        As I tell many of my clients at The Ultimate Caregiving Expert, caregiving can be stressful, overwhelming and disorganizing. Few of us realize that the process of caregiving takes a huge toll on our health over time. Caregivers cannot provide care if they are sick, which is why caregivers need to take care of themselves. Here are some helpful tips to try and stay healthy and recharged:

                • Take time for yourself, relax and refresh.

                • Talk about your experience as a caregiver with friends and family.

                • Join a support group

                • Don't be a super human and try and handle all tasks on your own. Ask for help or pay for help.

                • Continue a favorite hobby and do something that is fun, exciting and relaxing.

                • Take needed breaks to get away, refocus and recharge.

                • Exercise at least a few times a week.

        About the Guest Author

        Tena Scallan is a passionate health care professional with over 25 years of caregiving experience. She is the founder of The Ultimate Caregiving Expert and offers consulting services to caregivers. Tena has dedicated her life’s work to serving others in hospitals, running her own in-home caregiving agency and providing coaching and guidance for family caregivers.