PD Affects the entire family

PD and FamilyA slowing down of dopamine production in the brain is what causes Parkinson Disease. The effect is a host of symptoms which can vary widely from person to person. The affected person, and it is more often found in aging men may have tremors, a rigidity in movement, slowness, may “freeze” when walking, swallowing, speech,  have feelings of depression, be constipated and other symptoms. Dementia may follow after several years with PD.

Parkinson Disease is a Neuro-degenerative disease which over time causes difficulty primarily with walking. Simply said, PD is a Movement Disorder, therefore the person must keep moving, do exercise, walk, dance, box and so forth daily. It is usually treated with Sinamet and some other medications which modify or time release the Sinamet. New medications and delivery methods come to market periodically such as Rytary last year. Hopes in the Neuro community are for some larger breakthroughs in 2016-2017.

Early Onset is Possible, though usually diagnosed Later in Life

Michael J. Fox is best known to us as an example of a young man with early onset PD, which occurs more in the elderly.  Sergey Brin of Alphabet is a carrier of the mutation in the LRRK2 gene. This gene is found more often in Jewish people of Ashkenazic lineage. His mother has had early onset of PD. Remarkably, one of the first signs of the disease is a loss of smell and then some of the physical symptoms appear, eventually leading to the diagnosis. The person themselves and often their spouse or adult children begin to notice things are “off” and hopefully the Internist will have a Neuro exam ordered.

Ways to improve quality of life include:

Exam and care by a Movement Disorder Neurologist

Daily activity of some kind, with rest periods following

Joining your local NPF or APDA chapter to know about programs and research

Support Groups, for the person with the disease and their Care Partner

Regular rounds of Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy – in home or at a Center

Have a Home Safety Assessment and Physical Therapy Assessment to help prevent Fall Risks

Explore medical equipment for greater ease with eating, bathing, walking

Meet with an Elder Law Attorney for financial planning and Document preparation – POA, Living Will and Medical Surrogate

Share information within the family – involve your adult sons and daughters

Consider Respite Care – time off for the Care Partner to help lessen Burn Out – An aide even once or twice a week makes a big difference

The idea of “it takes a village” is very true for any progressive disease. The person may need some help to be motivated to keep moving, the spouse needs support and time to recharge, the community likely has programming specific to PD and the Government has benefits based on eligibility. As PD more often than not affects Older Adults and seniors, they commonly have other health issues to manage.