With a poor neurologist-to-patient ratio and an ageing population, the problem of a Parkinson’s pandemic is very real in Malaysia even though the condition is non-infectious.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:
- Learn as much as you can about the disease
- Volunteer to help, support and guide
- Encourage physical exercise
- Help seniors lead a normal life
- Get out of the house and have some outdoor fun
- Listen carefully
- Watch out for worsening symptoms
- Have patience
When a loved one gets Parkinson’s disease (a neurological disorder), you might be among the first to notice the signs and symptoms of the ailment. The first signs of Parkinson’s include issues with balance, movement, tremors, as well as some behavioural disorders. These symptoms of Parkinson’s worsen as the disease progresses.
Life with Parkinson’s disease is not easy. It’s trying for those experiencing it, and they will require special care and help to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. As caregivers, we need to reassure them that with the right support, care and encouragement, it is possible to manage Parkinson's and continue to lead a fulfilling life.
Here are eight ways you can be an effective caregiver to a loved one with Parkinson’s disease:
1. Learn As Much As You Can About The Disease
The more you know and understand what your loved one is going through, the easier it is to be a good caregiver. Make it your mission to understand the causes, risk factors, signs and symptoms, and treatment options. There are reputable websites and books that discuss all there is to know about the disease. The disease manifests in different ways for different individuals, so you may need to check multiple sources.
Accompanying seniors to doctor’s appointments is also a good way of learning about their progress. While at the appointment, ask as many questions as you can about treatment, medications, and other appropriate ways to help your loved one.
2. Volunteer To Help, Support And Guide
Parkinson’s disease produces both motor and non-motor symptoms. When an individual is suffering from mobility disorders, they may have difficulties doing their daily activities. However, they may feel embarrassed to ask you to assist them.
Understand that having to rely on another person is uncomfortable for anyone, and as a caregiver, volunteer to help, support and guide – by cooking, cleaning dishes, buying groceries, picking up their medicines, and driving seniors around.
However, be mindful and don’t assume that everyone who battles Parkinson’s, has a severe condition. While for some seniors, daily chores like cooking, cleaning and shopping for groceries may be extremely challenging, others might have a milder condition. Therefore, moderate your assistance to support and guide your loved one’s needs and quality of life, and respect their autonomy and sense of independence. Remember, care is about collaboration, not control.
3. Encourage Physical Exercise
Research and clinical trials have shown that exercise increases the level of dopamine, a chemical associated with movement, helping to slow down the progression of the disease.
Exercising helps improve memory, balance, strength, and the quality of life in general. If your loved one is still active, encourage them to take short walks every day. Enrolling in dancing or yoga classes is also a good idea. Both activities can help them coordinate their moves. You can support them by signing them up for a class.
4. Help Seniors Lead A Normal Life
When an individual starts to live with an ailment, society starts to treat them differently. These actions, though out of kindness, act as a constant reminder of their ailment. Help your loved one live a normal life by discussing their favourite movies and hobbies. Diverting their mind from the disease helps them from falling into depression and anxiety. Avoid talking about the illness with them all the time, and let them be themselves.
5. Get Out Of The House And Have Some Outdoor Fun
Living with a disease like Parkinson’s can be lonely. Most affected seniors spend time indoors which can lead to overthinking and stress. Going out helps them experience the outside world and connect with other people, which improves their quality of life.
Make dinner plans in a good hotel. When making reservations, choose places that make accommodations for the elderly. Don’t be disappointed if they are not feeling well on the day of going out. If this happens, don’t pressure them. Simply cancel the plan and make a new
6. Listen Carefully
Living with a disease that is degenerative and unpredictable can be frustrating. Be there for your loved one and listen to them when they need someone to talk to about what they are going through. When they get emotional, be there to offer a shoulder to cry on. Talking can help reduce stress and sadness. A simple attentive ear can improve an individual’s peace of mind, and help them discover that there is still beauty and joy in life.
7. Watch Out For Worsening Symptoms
As time goes by, Parkinson’s symptoms can become more intense. Watch out for these signs and symptoms that suggest a progression of the disease and report them to the doctor. Ask your medical practitioner about the various stages of Parkinson’s and signs to look out for. Be prepared to book appointments with a mental health professional, as depression is common among seniors with degenerative ailments.
8. Have Patience
As Parkinson's disease progresses, it affects the way a person talks and walks. Sometimes, when you are conversing, they may stammer or have a low volume. Be patient and smile as you listen. It reassures a senior that you are okay to wait. A speech therapist can help your loved one exercise to improve listening, comprehension and speech. If they are struggling too much, use other means of communication, such as writing, emailing or texting.
If you walk at your normal speed, they may not be able to keep up the pace. Slowing movement is a key sign of the disease. Slow down and adjust to their speed. If it is still hard, encourage them to use a wheelchair or a walker. Physiotherapy can help reduce deterioration of speed and movement.
If your loved one is living with Parkinson’s disease, it’s high time you step up as their caregiver. Elderly care is often a test of one’s love, motivation, and positivity.
As a caregiver, it’s your responsibility to ensure that they are okay and safe. Help them run errands and other chores around the house. And follow the above-mentioned tips to improve your loved one’s quality of life. If you are busy with work and other responsibilities, don’t worry, there are other options available.
Contact us on 1300 22 8822 or drop us a message using the chat box on this page, to find out more about our caregivers and how they can help make life more convenient for your loved ones and you.