Can you live at home with Parkinson's disease?

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Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease. It currently affects 4 million people worldwide.  Uncontrollable movements, tremors and jerky movements, blocked, stiff and frozen sensations throughout the body, difficulties writing or moving - all of these symptoms are characteristic of the disease.

Having a loved one with Parkinson's disease takes its toll on all levels. Physically and psychologically, the caregiver’s ability to cope is put to the test every day. Moreover, Parkinson's patients sometimes tend to get depressed on realising the limitations imposed by their disease. Often anxious, they withdraw into themselves and refuse to communicate. This is a very difficult situation for friends and family. There are several associations such as France Parkinson that specialise in the support and training of caregivers. Their goal is to provide the latter with all the information they need to look after these patients. Nevertheless, caregivers can still feel overwhelmed as the disease progresses.


What is the role of the caregiver?

Once a diagnosis has been made, the caregiver must initially discuss the role they will play in caring for the affected individual. The person with Parkinson’s disease will make the decisions but the caregiver must offer support when needed. This commitment will change as the disease progresses.


Although the patient’s friends and family are very dedicated, they may have problems in adopting the right approach to this condition as the patient's reactions can be difficult to manage. Moreover, mood swings and behavioural changes can trigger anxiety, resulting in a refusal to communicate. This can inflame an already difficult situation.



What approach should you adopt for a patient with Parkinson’s disease?

Here are five practical tips for caregivers:

- Lend a listening ear: explain, listen and ask for the opinion of the person you are helping. This shows that you respect their independence and are encouraging their involvement.

- Help the patient to maintain their independence: the patient should be allowed to perform as many activities as possible but their continued safety should always be uppermost. It is advisable to balance the amount of assistance given to ensure that it is adequate. However, this does not mean that you should do everything for the patient.

- Adapt to the illness and disability: it is important to stay in regular contact with the doctors treating your loved one to ensure that you are familiar with their physical and mental symptoms and can meet essential needs.

- Take time out and give yourself a break: you must also look after yourself – this is essential. Taking time to recharge your batteries will allow you to deliver optimum care to your loved one.

- Share problems with friends and family: it is important to rely on those around you. Do not hesitate to call on your family, friends, neighbours or day care centres to avoid carrying the burden of responsibility alone. Belonging to a support network allows you to share your experiences and find solutions.


What are the limits of home care for individuals with Parkinson's disease?

When an elderly loved one's condition progresses to a point where constant assistance and care are needed, the caregiver often makes a wise decision in turning to a residential facility capable of meeting the needs of patients with Parkinson’s disease. Fortunately, a number of facilities cater for elderly individuals with this condition. Every day, Senior Home Plus elderly care advisors are contacted by families in search of a retirement home that meets stringent requirements. Every request is dealt with promptly, including emergency requests. Searches are carried out to find quality facilities appropriately equipped to welcome and take care of Parkinson's patients both medically and socially, regardless of their condition, level of dependence, region or budget.


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