Parkinson’s disease is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world – in the UK alone, around 145,000 people are currently living with the disease1. It’s estimated that every hour two more people are diagnosed – that’s the equivalent of 18,000 people every year. Sadly, 1 in 37 people alive in the world today will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in their lifetime and, currently, there is no cure.
But sufferers and their families’ experiences of Parkinson’s aren’t always the same and, with proper care and treatment planning, many people with the condition can lead a good quality of life. Andrew Lofts, Managing Director of local in-home care provider, Visiting Angels, is keen to share his insight on the range of care available for those newly diagnosed with the disease, or anyone finding that their condition is deteriorating.
“You may not need any treatment during the early stages of Parkinson’s disease as symptoms are usually mild but, as the condition progresses, the symptoms can get worse, and it can become increasingly difficult to carry out everyday activities without help,” explained Andrew. “Whether you’re researching the condition for your own personal health reasons or you’re concerned for a loved one, it’s important to know that the majority of people respond well to treatment and only experience mild to moderate disability. What’s more, with recent advances in treatment and care, most people with Parkinson’s disease now have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.”
A diagnosis of Parkinson’s may cause all manner of questions and concerns. So, to offer some answers to those questions, here are four things you might not know about Parkinson’s – the signs to look out for, the potential long-term implications and the treatments available.
- The real cause is unknown
Parkinson’s disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra, which leads to a reduction of dopamine levels2. Crucially, dopamine plays a vital role in regulating the movement of the body. Therefore, this gradual reduction in dopamine is responsible for the majority of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
However – and despite multiple studies into the condition over the course of hundreds of years – exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells is unclear. Most experts think that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is responsible which means that it’s almost impossible to predict or prevent.
- Symptoms can vary enormously from one person to the next
Each sufferer’s experience of Parkinson’s disease will differ – specifically as the condition progresses. Early symptoms can include:
- Loss of smell
- Trouble sleeping
- Issues with mobility
As the condition develops, one of the key, or more common, symptoms is memory loss and, at the most advanced stage of the disease, many sufferers require wheelchairs and are often unable to stand on their own without falling. Sadly, around-the-clock assistance is then usually required to prevent falls and further accidents. At this point, families tend to seek out the support of registered care professionals, like our care team at Visiting Angels, to provide specialist, in-home care.
- Regular exercise can help alleviate some of the symptoms
Like many other medical conditions, regular exercise is a great way to alleviate some of the symptoms. A study by the Parkinson’s Outcomes Project shows that people with the disease who start exercising earlier in life, for a minimum of 2.5 hours a week, experience a slowed decline in quality of life compared to those who start later3. Tai chi, yoga, Pilates and dance have all been proven to have positive effects on symptoms.
One of the best forms of exercise for relieving some of the symptoms is simple – walking. Make sure you get out in the fresh air, with a companion if necessary, at least once a day – even if only for 10 minutes. And if you’re caring for a loved one with the condition but you’re not able to help support them with their daily exercise routine, seek the support of a local in-home care provider that can help.
- You don’t necessarily need to go into a care home
It’s understandable if your first thought after you or your loved one has been diagnosed with the condition is that, one day, a move into a residential care home may be the only solution. But there’s no reason why people with Parkinson’s can’t stay at home. Most people are able to do so and continue living their lives with as much normality as before with a combination of medication and care to control the symptoms in its earlier stages.
As the symptoms become harder to manage without professional care, sufferers may require the help of a carer to assist with things like cooking, bathing and dressing. Eventually, full-time support may be necessary to help with everyday activities. But that doesn’t mean the only option is a care home – at this point, an in-home care package can provide a solution. It’s also important to note that, at Visiting Angels, one of our key commitments is ensuring, where possible, a real consistency of care – meaning clients are visited by the same carer on a regular basis. The familiarity of home, much-loved belongings and routine can be more of a comfort for sufferers, so consider the benefits of in-home care before researching residential alternatives.
“The important thing to remember is the whole host of support available to you and your loved one. And even if you don’t require much help at this stage, I would always recommend reaching out to local health care professionals and providers for guidance. At Visiting Angels, we’re passionate about equipping our carers with the skills and training they need to ensure you or your loved one receives the compassionate and quality standard of care we would want our own parents or grandparents to receive,” added Andrew.
To find out more about the care services that Visiting Angels can provide for your loved ones with Parkinson’s or other degenerative diseases, please visit www.visiting-angels.co.uk/eaststaffs/ or call
01283 319 400 and ask for Andrew.
1 Parkinson’s UK, 2020, About Parkinson’s.
2 NHS, 2020, Parkinson’s disease.
3 Parkinson’s Foundation, 2020, Parkinson’s Outcomes Project.