Even though nearly one million people are living with Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. alone, a greater understanding of Parkinson’s was perhaps first brought to the spotlight by the diagnosis of Michael J. Fox. Since then, his foundation has funded advancements in research and awareness which were previously unparalleled, providing us with hope for a future cure.
In the meantime, it is critical to understand what Parkinson’s is, as well as the signs to watch for, in order to receive a timely diagnosis and the earliest possible treatment and intervention. Hearts at Home In-Home Care’s Overland Park elder care team has the information you need.
What Is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that affects a senior’s coordination, balance, and movement through tremors and progressive muscle stiffness and rigidity. Although the exact cause is unknown, scientists think that contributing factors are both genetic and environmental. Generally, it typically affects adults age 60 and older, although early onset Parkinson’s can occur prior to age 50. Additionally, researchers know that men are diagnosed twice as often as women.
In addition to trembling and stiffness, Parkinson’s can also cause changes in emotion (for example, depression), issues with eating and speaking, sleeping pattern changes, skin problems, and more.
The Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s
In the very early stages of the disease, there are several red flags which can be detected, such as:
- Changes in handwriting. Specifically, an individual with Parkinson’s will begin to write much smaller, along with words and letters crowded together. This condition is referred to as micrographia.
- Changes in smell. Loss of smell is common in early Parkinson’s, particularly in foods like dill pickles, bananas, and licorice.
- Changes in speaking. A softer or hoarse tone of voice often accompanies Parkinson’s, although it is not always obvious to the person with the condition. He or she may suspect hearing loss in others as a reason for not clearly understanding what the individual has said.
- Changes in facial expression. Facial masking, the term for a person who appears to always have a serious or depressed facial expression, is common in Parkinson’s.
- Changes in posture. Watch for a leaning or stooped posture when standing, as well as a stiffness in the arms and legs when the individual is walking. One quick method to evaluate this is by watching to see if the senior’s arms swing naturally when walking. He or she may have a tendency to lean forward.
- Changes in sleeping. An individual with Parkinson’s may flail his/her arms and legs and make other sudden movements while sleeping. These movements can be disturbing to a sleeping partner, who may seek alternative sleeping arrangements.
In the event that you observe any of these changes in a senior you love, in addition to the hallmark signs of tremors and rigidity, contact his/her doctor at the earliest opportunity for a comprehensive evaluation. Then get in touch with Hearts at Home In-Home Care for more resources pertaining to Parkinson’s and in-home supportive services to make life safer and more comfortable throughout the progression of the disease. You can email or call us any time at 913-440-4209 to find out more about our trusted at home care in Overland Park, KS and surrounding areas, and to arrange for a free in-home assessment.