If your older loved one has Parkinson’s Disease, their need for practical and emotional support will increase over the years. You may be devoting much of your time to caring for them now, or both of you may be wondering about how realistic it is to try to keep them at home. But with the right preparation and planning, home care can be a strong alternative to a group or institutional setting; many people with Parkinson’s remain healthier and safer at home.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disease caused by the destruction of brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical the brain uses to direct physical movement. Without these cells, the body can’t produce dopamine; without dopamine, the brain can’t tell the body how to move. This eventually leads to tremors, stiffness, slow movement, and impaired balance. It can also cause skin problems, sleep disruption, difficulty chewing or swallowing, and depression.

The symptoms vary widely from person to person, and there is no specific test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease directly. A diagnosis of Parkinson’s is based on the symptoms above, the person’s medical history, and a neurological and physical examination. Many of the lab tests and imaging scans that doctors perform when looking for Parkinson’s actually eliminate other possible causes of the symptoms, narrowing the diagnosis down to Parkinson’s.

A doctor may even prescribe one of the medications used to treat Parkinson’s, carbidopa-levodopa, as one step toward determining if the person has the disease. If the person’s symptoms are consistent with Parkinson’s and tests eliminate other diseases, and if the person improves while taking carbidopa-levodopa, then a doctor will confirm a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but medications and other therapies can ease symptoms radically and restore the quality of life to a very great degree for many years. Levodopa converts to dopamine if it is introduced directly into the system; carbidopa prevents it from converting too soon. Other medications do not convert, but mimic the effects of dopamine or slow the breakdown of dopamine. Still, others address symptoms like tremors directly. The Mayo Clinic explains the causes, symptoms, and treatments of Parkinson’s Disease very simply and clearly on their website.

The longer a person has the disease, the more pronounced the symptoms become and the harder they are to control. Therefore, the older a person is, the more difficulty their Parkinson’s may cause. When the disease is advanced, the support the person needs can put a lot of pressure on the family and badly tax family caregivers. This is where home care solutions come in.

Home care solutions cover such a range of tasks that they are easily adjusted to the level of need of the care recipient. At first, a caregiver can simply run errands, shop for groceries, tidy up the house, and drive the person who has Parkinson’s to doctor appointments and physical and occupational therapy. They can keep an eye on home safety and help the person get around the house. Once a Parkinson’s plan is initiated, a caregiver can help with walking, stretching, and other prescribed exercises and remind the person when to take medications, as well as plan and prepare healthy meals that strengthen muscles and bones.

When mobility becomes more limited, a home caregiver can help with routine daily activities like bathing, dressing, eating, and using the bathroom. A skilled caregiver is sensitive to the way that Parkinson’s and other diseases can slow a person’s pace and can help with essentials while respecting privacy and the need for a normal routine. At any level of severity in symptoms, a professional home caregiver can relieve overtaxed family caregivers who need a break or free time to pursue their own self-care.

In-home care is often a better alternative than assisted living or a skilled nursing facility. First of all, it is home, a familiar and emotionally secure environment. Your loved one’s home may need some minor alterations to make it physically safe for them, such as non-slip pads or double-sided rug tape under the rugs, generous lighting in all entryways, passages, and rooms, secure handrails and second rails on stairways, and grab bars near the toilet and in the shower or tub. But these are routine precautions for many older adults who stay at home and usually are not difficult to adjust. In exchange, your older loved one will be surrounded by the people and things that mean most.

While assisted living and skilled nursing facilities have multiple medical personnel available around the clock, a home care provider may actually be more focused on your older loved one. With only one, or perhaps two, people to care for, a professional home caregiver is less likely to mix up medications, give the wrong dose, miss a dose, or be called away to an emergency before completing a task. A caregiver with one person to focus on is more likely to notice changes in the way medications are affecting an older adult or how long they are lasting. Best of all, a professional home caregiver is easily located and more available to talk with family members about changes in symptoms and emotions that the family notices. The family doesn’t have to leave multiple messages or look around the facility to locate the care provider.

Finally, a professional caregiver, however much they like and respect the older person in their care, can be more objective exactly because they are professional and because they have not known the person all their lives. A good home caregiver can be a good sounding board for the family’s concerns and anxieties and provide a steadying influence while the family and the older adult adjust to changes and new limitations.

CarePlus provides comprehensive in-home services for assisted daily living and offers a specialized program for older adults with Parkinson’s disease. Our caregivers can help with lifestyle strategies, nutrition and daily living, physical stability, mobility and exercise, and fall prevention, as well as building confidence and perspective and connecting the older adult with others in their situation and with community programs.

Helping older adults remain at home is our passion. For the past 25 years, we have taken pride in helping our clients in Montgomery County and the surrounding area age in place with excellent services provided by highly trained, trustworthy and compassionate caregivers. Call us today at 301-740-8870 or email us at info@careplusinc.com to discuss your needs.