Coping With Parkinson’s Diagnosis as a Family
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February 16, 2022

Coping With Parkinson’s Diagnosis as a Family

Young smiling nurse outside on a walk with an elderly woman in a wheelchair with Parkinson's Disease.

Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s can bring up a lot of emotions for you and your loved ones. Feelings of distress, denial, fear, and shock are often the most common when it comes to coping with the diagnosis. Each person experiences stages and emotions in their own order, at their own pace. Remember, everything you feel is normal.

What Is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement and may include tremors. Leading up to a diagnosis, individuals may experience symptoms or early signs of PD such as noticeable tremors in one hand, slow movement, or loss of balance. Other early-stage symptoms that have been reported include stiffness in arms while walking, slurred or softer speech, inability to show facial expressions, and swallowing issues.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease may affect people differently, but the main similarity in those with PD is the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the brain area known as the substantia nigra. Scientists and physicians believe that the cause of Parkinson’s is a combination of lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors.

While studying individuals with Parkinson’s, it was found that genetics cause about 10 to 15 percent of diagnoses. Scientists have discovered gene mutations that may be linked to the nervous system disorder. The research and findings are a little more complex regarding environmental factors. According to The Parkinson’s Foundation, some environmental exposures may lower the risk of PD, and others may increase the risk.

Environmental risk factors include head injury, occupation, metal exposure, pesticide, and herbicide exposure. Other risk factors include age and gender, as PD is more common in men over age 60.

Coping With a Parkinson’s Diagnosis Emotionally & Physically

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it can be a lot to take in. As we mentioned, the symptoms may be different for each person, but strategies for physically and emotionally coping with a Parkinson’s diagnosis is crucial to everyday living.

If you would like to learn new strategies for your emotional and physical health, here are some tips:

  1. Gather Knowledge
    The first step starts with education. Hearing any type of diagnosis can be scary, but educating yourself and your family about the condition may help to ease some worries. Parkinson’s Disease is generally not a fatal condition and the lifespan of someone with PD is typically the same as someone without it.
  2. Remain Active
    It is well researched that remaining active can keep symptoms under control. Remaining active through exercise can be beneficial for physical and emotional health. Walking, yoga, or other exercises that help to improve strength, flexibility, and balance are great options. Medications should be taken half an hour before exercise. Talk with your physician about what is a healthy and safe amount of physical activity for you.
  3. Social Interactions
    Although maintaining a flourishing social life may not be your first priority when it comes to a PD diagnosis, it is important to maintain social interactions with friends and family. Social interactions can also help to prevent feelings of loneliness or isolation.
  4. Quality Time With Friends & Family
    Another great way to help cope with the diagnosis is by spending quality time with loved ones to share your feelings about the diagnosis and listen to theirs as well. It is also a great way to communicate any type of needs or assistance that may be required
  5. Support Groups or Therapy
    There are many Parkinson’s Disease support groups in person and online that can connect families and individuals with others who are in similar situations.  Individual therapy or family therapy sessions can help to sort through your emotions and can also help you and your loved ones accept the diagnosis.
  6. Diet
    Protein should be kept an hour away from your Parkinson’s medication administration as they both compete at the dopamine receptor sites. Protein can reduce the efficacy of your medication.
    Although there is not a specific “Parkinson’s Diet,” there has been preliminary evidence that shows a possible connection between the diet and improved motor symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. There have been additional studies that further suggest the ketogenic diet helped to improve non-motor symptoms such as lethargy, cognitive impairments, and pain. If you are thinking of starting the ketogenic diet, please speak to your physician or nutritionist for more information.

As Parkinson’s disease progresses, symptoms may worsen, and it can affect your daily routines, which is why it’s important to incorporate daily doses of high-intensity exercise and learn coping strategies early on in your journey. In later stages of PD, assistance may be required for some individuals and Home Care Connectors can help throughout any stage of diagnosis. Our in-home caregivers have the experience, compassion, and knowledge to work with even the most progressive cases of the nervous system disorder.

Since Parkinson’s Disease affects motor skills and balance, our caregivers are able to recognize Parkinson’s tremors and other symptoms so that we can best maintain your loved one’s daily routine, exercise, and diet.

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