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Caregiver

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Caregiver

You may be the spouse, child or other friend or relative of a person diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Caregiving may not be a role you were expecting to fill in life, but it’s an incredibly valuable one. Making sure someone you love maintains the best quality of life possible, despite a serious health condition, can be a challenge. 

It’s important to know you’re not in it alone. There are many support communities, organizations and resources available to help. An effective treatment plan is also one of your biggest assets. 

Parkinson’s disease can be unpredictable. It’s hard to know which symptoms will appear, in what order, how severe they will be, and how quickly things will progress. It’s important to educate yourself, to be prepared. As a caregiver, you are your loved one’s most powerful advocate. So it’s important to surround yourself with the support and resources you both need, and to create a long-term plan. 

Parkinson’s is a chronic progressive disease. That means caregiving for Parkinson’s is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s just as important to make sure your own physical, emotional and spiritual challenges are being addressed.   

Caregiving isn’t limited to just physical assistance - although that becomes increasingly important in the later stages. In the early stages, your emotional support is more often what’s needed. Especially when you’re dealing with someone who has always seen themselves as a strong, independent person. They may have a hard time accepting assistance, or have difficulty knowing when they need it. Keep your loved one as involved in important decisions as possible, for as long as possible. Expect your role to evolve over time.  

As a caregiver, you’ll help assemble a strong care team, from motor disorder specialists and neurologists to physical therapists and speech therapists. You will likely also be called on to help build, adjust and manage your loved one’s Parkinson’s treatment plan over time. This includes keeping things like doctor’s appointments and medication schedules organized. 

When exercise is part of the treatment plan, you may need to offer encouragement, motivation and reminders to work out. It can be tough convincing your loved one to push their body’s limits every day. Keep reminding them that doing so is how you gain back ground and keep Parkinson’s from making those limits more restrictive. 

As a caregiver, you are coaching your loved one through the fight of their life. The reward is a better quality of life for both of you. 

Related Articles

Diagnosis

Parkinson’s disease is not diagnosed based on a specific test. Instead, a doctor can make a diagnosis based on the presence of two of the four major symptoms, along with some lab, blood and/or imaging tests to rule out other conditions. 

Living with Parkinson's Disease

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but it is possible to maintain quality of life. Living well with Parkinson’s means having a treatment plan to manage your symptoms. It also means making necessary lifestyle changes, and developing a support network, so you can continue to participate fully in life. 

Treatment

While there is no cure, many different treatment options exist to help address the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Each person’s individual treatment plan is based on a variety of different factors. These may include age, general health status, how far the symptoms have progressed, and how they respond to specific treatments. Medication, therapy, surgery and lifestyle changes can all be used to create an effective treatment plan.