Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. It’s important to be aware of the symptoms, causes and treatment of Parkinson’s Disease – just in case.

 

It’s not as rare as you may think

According to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Parkinson’s Disease is the second-most diagnosed brain disease after Alzheimer’s with 60,000 diagnoses a year. It’s most commonly diagnosed in those 60+ years of age.

 

Why does this happen?

Parkinson’s Disease is a movement disorder caused by failure or death of dopamine-making brain cells. Dopamine coordinates movement, motivation and good feelings. There’s no one thing scientists can pinpoint as the cause of the disease; the current understanding is that it’s caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors – like genetic mutations and exposure to toxins – herbicides and pesticides.

Scientists have begun turning their attention to Lewy bodies, too. Lewy bodies are made of a protein called alpha-synuclein. These abnormal protein clumps can’t be broken down, and they appear to develop within the brain cells of those with Parkinson’s Disease. Lewy bodies block neurotransmitter release – molecules being delivered between neurons. This includes the neurotransmitter dopamine and is likely the reason why, as mentioned above, dopamine creation and transmission fails for those living with Parkinson’s Disease. There will likely be more research and findings on Lewy bodies in coming years.

 

What does it mean for those living with it?

Parkinson’s Disease is a unique experience to all who live with it. The array of Parkinson’s symptoms manifest in different combinations per individual. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • Resting tremor
  • Stiffness
  • Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)
  • Walking imbalance
  • Difficulty smelling
  • Cramped handwriting (micrographia)
  • Problems with sleep
  • Cognitive changes
  • Depression

 

Parkinson’s Disease can be a devastating diagnosis. It could mean the end of a career for a marathon runner, an artist’s creativity to never be actualized again due to shaking hands, many ends to a person’s everyday life and ensuing depression due to these symptoms and the lack of dopamine. The point is, it could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

 

What can we do about it?

There is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, and there’s no way to stop its progression. Current medications and treatments can ease symptoms. Treatment plans are individual to the patient since Parkinson’s Disease is a unique experience to those living with it. It usually takes coordination among several healthcare providers, and a combination of treatments.

Treatments can include surgery, as in deep brain stimulation to reduce symptoms, physical therapy and general exercise, and medications that supplement or make up for the lack of dopamine in the brain.

Lifestyle changes are also recommended: changing eating habits to include more wholesome, nutritious choices, exercising – swimming, walking and yoga – and maintaining relationships versus closing yourself off to the world.

 

How Think’s Care Coordination can help

Think Whole Person Healthcare’s services can play a huge supporting role to those living with any chronic condition – including Parkinson’s. Since your primary doctor is the best first point of contact when you’re experiencing any odd symptoms, it’s most often primary doctors who diagnose Parkinson’s Disease. From there, they’ll likely recommend going to see a movement disorder specialist, neurologist and/or speech language pathologist depending on the patient’s symptoms and the doctor’s knowledge of who their patient is.

This is where Think Whole Person Healthcare can help. Since Parkinson’s Disease symptoms are vast and unique, there will be a lot of people suggesting treatments, medications, etc. Think Whole Person Healthcare’s Care Coordinators know their patients’ care plans and manage it with specialists so the primary doctor can better treat patients and communicate with all involved in the care plan.

Think Whole Person Healthcare has its own specialists in-house that help, too. Our nine physical therapists specialize in different areas of care – like spinal problems, gait, balance, chronic pain, and more, and some even have a background in psychology, which offers a more balanced, whole-person treatment. Our physical therapists offer a free Balance Assessment, where they test to see if individuals qualify for our Fall Prevention Class; staying active, strong and balanced while living with Parkinson’s, especially if experiencing imbalance, is extremely beneficial and preventative.

Other in-house specialists include massage therapy, mental health, podiatrists and more who can play a huge role, too, also depending on the symptoms.

Raising awareness is key to raising funds and research efforts to find cures for those living with Parkinson’s Disease, experiencing a wide assortment of symptoms that are life-changing. There’s no better time than now to start spreading the word and helping your fellow earth-dwellers living with the disease. Sharing this article with your friends is a great place to start.


 

Am I A Caregiver?

Written by Jenn Black, Care Coordination Manager, Think Whole Person Healthcare

 

What is considered “caregiving”?

There are many kinds of caregivers. Physicians, nurses and care coordinators are all caregivers. There is a special kind of caregiver, too. Some caregivers care for their loved ones, and are typically children and spouses. If that’s you, you’ll want to keep reading.

 

At what point does a caregiver become a caregiver?

It’s a complicated thing to define. As your loved one ages, they have a harder time getting to the store or running an errand, and might reach out to you for help. Or, your loved one might have a chronic condition, and that typically means they’ll need help managing their healthcare.

As your loved one continues to age, your responsibilities likely increase. Somewhere along the line, you’ll likely become a caregiver.

 

How do caregivers support their loved ones while also maintaining boundaries?

Being a caregiver is a complicated role to fill. Often, you have your own responsibilities and even families to care for. You want to be there for everyone, but you don’t want to burn yourself out.

First, it is important to educate yourself on your loved one’s condition. This will help you be there for them, because you’ll know what they need. More importantly, however, you’ll learn if something they need is something you can’t do on your own (for example, lifting someone to help them use the restroom). Knowing your boundaries and asking for help will help eliminate stress when certain tasks become daunting.

It’s important that you respect the emotions of your loved one, but it’s just as important to recognize and verbalize your own emotions – and to expect understanding and compassion. Please don’t pretend that you can do everything and be everything for everyone! It’s not personal, just impossible!!

 

Where should caregivers go for help?

Think has an excellent Care Coordination program that eliminates most of your work coordinating, managing medications, and the back-and-forth with multiple doctors. It’s actually quite incredible. When you sign up for the program, you’re paired with a personal pharmacist, care coordinator, and if you’re not yet a patient at Think, your best-fitting physician and their nursing staff. These roles create a team who monitor, communicate, and plan around your loved one’s healthcare. Can you imagine that without Think, you’d be doing all that by yourself? It’s a great solution to manage your loved one’s health, and YOUR sanity. Think About It…and if you decide it could be the right fit for you and your family, then fill out this form to get more information and to get started.

There are other great resources available for caregivers. Family Caregiver Alliance, for example, has a wealth of knowledge that will answer your preliminary questions.