Parkinson's Disease: Living Well After Diagnosis

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological condition, often characterized by tremors, stiffness, and poor balance. Movement is normally controlled by a chemical in the nerve cells called dopamine, but a loss of these cells in the part of the brain controlling movement can cause Parkinson’s Disease.

Symptoms can also include stiffening of muscles, slurring of speech, and slow or nonexistent physical reactions. A patient may be diagnosed by a family doctor, neurologist or other specialist, but there is currently no medical or laboratory test that will show a definitive diagnosis. There is no known cure for Parkinson’s Disease.

Living Well with Parkinson’s Disease

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, it is still valuable to discuss factors that can improve an individual’s quality of life after diagnosis.

Eat well

Proper nutrition can help our bodies stay healthy, as well as bolster immune systems and reduce illness. It can help keep body weight within a healthy range and increase energy. While none of these things will cure or eliminate the symptoms of Parkinson, they can help patients stay healthier overall and lessen complications from other illnesses.

Exercise

While Parkinson may affect mobility, speech, or certain types of movement, there are still many reasons to stay active and keep moving as much as possible. Exercising can strengthen muscles, improve balance, increase range of motion, and help prevent falls. While it will not slow or stop the progression of Parkinson, it can be a helpful way to improve quality of life and reduce accidents and injury.

Stay positive & connected

While a Parkinson diagnosis may be a significant life change, there may be many enjoyable years before serious progression of the condition. Keeping a positive attitude and not letting the diagnosis define an individual can help keep perspective for everyone involved, and encourage them to seek the support they need to keep living the fullest life possible.

Learn more

Staying informed can be important when managing a condition over the long term. Treatment options may change, new ideas may come into trial, and the experience of others may be informative. An open mind and regular check-ins with a family doctor may help ensure the best care is being received.

Seek support

It is important that those living with Parkinson have access to support networks and counselling. There are regional support available – here in Alberta, information can be found at Parkinson Alberta, or by telephone at the PD Helpline: 1-877-243-9992. One on one counselling is also available through Parkinson Alberta.

Planning Ahead

After a diagnosis, it is important to plan what you can ahead of time to ensure you have a voice in decisions that may be made for your care and life as the disease progresses. The longer you wait to get everything in order the harder it becomes, so we suggest having thoughtful conversations with your family early and often. Topics should include: assisted living to remain in your home as long as possible, estate planning, preparation of a living will as well as any other financial and legal matters relevant to your situation. Taking care of these important matters early on can help ease anxiety for you and your family down the road.

Medical care & treatment options

A patient diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease becomes a key part of their own care team, along with their family doctor, specialists, family members, and caregivers. Communication between these team members will become increasingly important as the condition progresses and changes to treatment become necessary. Treatment options may include medication, surgery, as well as physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy.

Safety

A diagnosis should trigger conversations about safety. In the early stages, it may be safe for an individual with Parkinson to continue most of their daily activities, however, before too much time goes by it is important to discuss changes that may lie ahead. How long will driving be possible? What are the signs that someone suffering from these symptoms should stop driving? How safe is their home, and how might their condition affect their ability to live there safely? What type of support or care might be needed? These are all discussions to have early after diagnosis to ensure options are weighed and preferences considered.

Prepare for the future

There are always fears and anxiety that come with any serious diagnosis, especially one without a cure. Fear can prevent those with Parkinson from proactively managing their health or making decisions that can affect their care long term. However, taking ownership of these decisions can empower individuals, reducing anxiety and worry. It may not be easy, but as time goes on, individuals with Parkinson should be encouraged and supported in these conversations to ensure they have a voice in care decisions that may come later.

There are many topics to consider when preparing a plan to address Parkinson, such as estate planning, short and long term home care, family respite care for the primary caregiver to assist with continuity of care as well as what type of care might be most appropriate. You may need to research if hiring privately or using an agency best suits your situation.

Have questions or feedback on what you just read? Please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to chat with you.

~ Senior Homecare by Angels Calgary team

Proudly supporting Parkinson Alberta