Tips for those living with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers
A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be frightening, but understanding what you can do to be proactive with your health will make a big difference.
April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, a good time to acknowledge that Parkinson’s impacts each person differently and cases of progression vary, but no matter your situation, there are important lifestyle choices that can help you manage symptoms and help you attain maximum quality of life.
“We hear a lot of patients say, ‘I don’t need therapy yet’, or ‘I’m not ready for that class yet’, but the reality is you shouldn’t wait to get worse to focus on getting better. Although there is no cure, improvement is possible and you can delay the progression,” said VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Health Promotions Supervisor Kathleen Eagle. “We can be here from the start to help you keep moving so you can achieve a high degree of wellness throughout the stages of Parkinson’s disease.”
VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice has a proven track record of success treating patients with Parkinson’s disease. The non-profit agency’s homecare program offers research-based exercise developed specifically for those with a Parkinson’s diagnosis. It is effective for all stages, from early onset to later stages.
The agency also offers twice weekly exercise classes with a nominal $6 fee to attend and a free weekly dance class tailored to Parkinson’s patients. Fall risk assessments are also available. Balance issues caused by Parkinson’s puts patients at an increased risk for falls, so an assessment can be a critical component of the effort to keep you safe at home. Free support groups for those living with the disease and their caregivers are held monthly and VNACHCH staff members are always available to offer suggestions to those looking to live their best life despite their diagnosis.
To read more about the VNACHCH Parkinson’s programs, click here.
Regular exercise and stretching is important to help those living with Parkinson’s increase flexibility, attain better balance, improve coordination and add muscle strength. Tai Chi, walking, dancing and stretching are all important ways movement can be incorporated into one’s daily routine. Group classes can provide support and guidance along with a team mentality which helps to lessen anxiety and depression.
Eat, sleep and be well
Proper sleep and nutrition are critical to achieving the best level of wellness for anyone. Those with Parkinson’s may struggle to get the most restful sleep, but sticking to a bedtime schedule and an exercise routine can help. Keep daytime naps brief, avoid caffeine, get plenty of natural light during the day and keep screens out of the bedroom and pets off your bed. The most comfortable environment will lead to the most restful sleep.
Make sure you plan meals around incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains into our diet while limiting fats, sugar, sodium and alcohol. Stay hydrated and get plenty of calcium, vitamin K and vitamin D to ward off bone density loss and other Parkinson’s symptoms.
Look for support, care for your caregivers
Attending a support group can help those with a Parkinson’s disease to feel camaraderie rather than loneliness that often comes with any medical diagnosis. It’s also important to have strong caregivers in your corner.
That being said, caregivers can only provide the support you need if they also make sure to care for themselves. Encourage your loved ones to attend a caregiver support group and take occasional time for themselves.
Help to educate them about your disease and be open about your frustrations coping with symptoms, your limitations that mean you will require help and what things you’d like to try doing on your own. Have as many open and honest communications as possible about your wishes while you are in early stages of Parkinson’s, and provide clear direction about how you want to be treated and have your affairs handled after the onset of later stages.
Your support team should also include therapists who can help manage symptoms and even improve your condition.
VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice clinicians certified in LSVT BIG and LSVT LOUD deliver physical, occupational and speech therapy in intense and complex standardized treatment sessions with repetitions of core movements used in daily living. Clinicians conduct 16 sessions per month with patients as part of this research-based treatment that leads to documented gains in motor functioning, trunk rotation, balance and quality of life, as well as long term improvements in speech and voice quality.