February 10, 2011
Senior illnesses and conditions take a toll on caregivers as much as older adults. The advanced stages of diseases such as Parkinson's may require that seniors receive around-the-clock assistance, which many times falls to family members. Family caregivers must guard their own health and look to respite care when necessary.
Q.My 72-year-old husband has Parkinson's disease and needs more of my time. My family and friends don't seem to understand this disease. Can you educate them and offer any suggestions for help?
Parkinson's disease is a brain disorder that occurs when certain nerve cells (neurons) in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra die or become impaired, according to the National Parkinson Foundation.
Normally, these cells produce a vital chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine allows smooth, coordinated function of the body's muscles and movement. When approximately 80 percent of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the symptoms of Parkinson's disease appear.
The key signs of Parkinson's disease are tremor (shaking), slowness of movement, rigidity (stiffness) and difficulty with balance. Other signs of the disease may include: small or cramped handwriting, stiff facial expression, shuffling walk, muffled speech and depression.
As the disease progresses, a caregiver may be on call day and night. Stress and fatigue are very real factors in the lives of Parkinson's caregivers. That's why a caregiver should always guard his or her health.
Contact the National Parkinson Foundation at www.parkinson.org. This organization can help in two ways: you can refer your family and friends to this site for more information about this disease; and, you can find support groups and other resources by doing an online search in your area.
As you care for your spouse, finding time for yourself is very important. Can you ask a trusted friend of your husband's to spend a few hours a week with him so that you could rest or pursue a hobby? Or maybe it's time to hire additional help.
Companies like Home Instead Senior Care® employ CAREGiversSM who are screened, trained, bonded and insured, and equipped to provide non-medical care and respite help to family members. A CAREGiver could be a companion to you and your husband, as well as help around the house with meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and shopping.
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