April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. After Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most neurodegenerative disease. An estimated one million people in the United States have Parkinson’s disease and many of them are aged 60 and older. Despite its prevalence, there is still much we don’t understand about the condition and those who suffer from it. This lack of knowledge can lead to older adults with Parkinson’s disease not having their symptoms recognized, their disease going untreated and it could have a serious impact on their quality of life. Learning more about Parkinson’s can help people with the condition get early intervention.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic degenerative disorder that impacts the nervous system. The exact cause is unknown and there is no cure, but there are a number of treatment options available. The condition mainly affects dopamine-producing neurons in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. The condition often begins in middle or late life, and the risk of developing it increases as we age. People usually develop the disease around age 60 or older. Because the worldwide population is living longer, PD represents a significant and increasing threat to public health.
Parkinson’s disease symptoms vary
Although the symptoms vary from person to person, common experiences are hand tremors, slow body movements, balance problems, rigid muscles, speech problems and handwriting changes. Because the outward symptoms are so well known, many people make the mistake of believing that Parkinson’s disease only impacts the motor functions. However, the lesser-known or “invisible” symptoms of the disease are completely unrelated to movement and could have a greater effect on a person’s quality of life.
For example, people with Parkinson’s can experience behavioral changes and cognitive impairment. These invisible symptoms could be early indicators of the development of Parkinson’s disease. Non-motor or invisible Parkinson’s symptoms may also include:
- Bladder problems
- Memory loss
- Reduced sense of smell
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sweating and not being able to control body temperature
- Trouble sleeping or sudden jerking movements during sleep
More impacted by invisible symptoms
A study of 750 people recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford in Britain found that 99 percent “had at least one ‘non-motor’ symptom, and many suffered five or more. A number of these symptoms were apparently untreated, despite the availability of effective treatments.” According to the research, the study’s participants were also more impacted by their invisible symptoms than tremors or movement problems. Depression, anxiety and fatigue were most commonly cited as the symptoms that lowered the quality of life. Fortunately, the motor and non-motor invisible symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are treatable and both can be managed with medical interventions.
Need for long-term care
Each person is affected differently by PD and the rate of progression varies greatly between individuals. Parkinson’s disease in itself does not directly cause people to die, however; the symptoms do get worse over time. It is possible to live with the disease for more than 20 years. As their condition progresses, some people with Parkinson’s disease may need the support of a short-term rehabilitation program or long-term healthcare. A nationwide study “found that 25% of the Medicare PD population receives nursing home care.” Nursing homes can provide an interdisciplinary approach to care and services to help residents with Parkinson’s disease maintain their mental, physical and social well-being.
Let us help
The Compliance Store has resources on Parkinson’s disease and many other health conditions, including care plans templates, fact sheets and research information. Be on the lookout for our latest addition, the Parkinson’s Disease Care Solution.
This comprehensive solution provides an overview of Parkinson’s disease, treatment options and care considerations underlying this complex disorder. A PowerPoint presentation and pre/post-test are also available for educational purposes. To learn more, contact us online or call 877-582-7347.