Parkinson’s Disease And What Your Family Should Know
We know that Parkinson’s disease affects an aging adult physically, emotionally, and mentally. But Parkinson’s also has an effect on family members. In order to prepare for the challenges that this life-changing disorder creates, it can help to understand some of the ramifications of Parkinson’s on family dynamics.
During the early phase of this progressive disorder, people living with Parkinson’s may have minor twitches or tremors but are capable of continuing their daily routines without difficulty. As the disease progresses, stiffness and a loss of coordination can make it difficult to walk unassisted or unsupervised. Someone living with Parkinson’s eventually loses the ability to feed themselves, get dressed, or bathe. For an aging adult with Parkinson’s to remain at home, a spouse or adult child often becomes the primary caregiver–a challenging and stressful role. Caregivers need support, understanding, and help from others.
It is not unusual for family members to disagree about how to care for an aging loved one. One adult child may feel alone in providing care and lash out at other siblings, while another may not think financial or medical matters are being handled correctly. Others might disagree with the level of care provided. Differing perspectives may lead to squabbles among family members—and the ensuing stress may also affect the loved one whose care is being debated. Families must make cooperation a priority, understanding that it is in everyone’s interest to hear one another and to work together toward positive solutions.
Aging adults living with Parkinson’s might wake frequently, either because of pain or discomfort, or the need to visit the bathroom. But If a loved one gets up during the night, the family caregiver must wake up as well, whether it is to offer pain medication or physical assistance. This puts caregivers at risk of sleep deprivation. All household members need seven to nine hours of sleep each night to maintain health and wellbeing. If family members have the chance to take alternate shifts, everyone can get at least a few good night’s sleep.
As Parkinson’s progresses, a loved one might have increased difficulty speaking and effectively communicating their needs. Family members may become frustrated when it takes a longer time to figure out what a loved one is saying. With patience, lines of communication can be kept open.
Family members endure a grieving process while witnessing a loved one face the challenges of Parkinson’s. They might worry about their loved one’s continuing decline as well as their own chances of developing the disorder. Family caregivers are at risk of burnout if they don’t have respite time as well as emotional and social support. Attending a Parkinson’s support group can help.
If your family identifies with these challenges, we can help you understand what the next steps could look like and come up with a care plan to take care of you and your loved one.
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