Helping Individuals With Parkinson’s Disease

The challenges faced by individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD), even within their own homes, can be many and varied. PD is a disease that develops and worsens slowly over time.

Symptoms range widely from motor symptoms (like tremors, coordination, balance, walking deficits, lack of facial expression, decreased vocal volume and inflection) to non-motor symptoms (like depression, anxiety, constipation, lethargy). Symptoms can vary greatly from person to person, depending on how long they have had the disease, what sorts of treatments they employ, as well as other disease processes and other factors which may impact them. Treatments which can be used to successfully manage the symptoms and may assist with slowing the disease progression include medication management, evidence-based, PD-specific exercise programs and possibly surgery.

Skilled home care agencies working with these individuals are in the unique position of seeing exactly what challenges patients with PD and their care partners face in their homes.  Symptoms can fluctuate, sometimes in an unpredictable manner. Skilled home health staff can help to improve safety and function within the home, as well as help with the transition back to the community.

Within the home, individuals with Parkinson’s disease may struggle with slow, small movements which can affect their ability to dress, bathe, move in bed and prepare food efficiently and safely. Deficits in walking caused by PD may make it difficult to negotiate changes in flooring, small spaces and doorways, and may also increase an individual’s risk for falls.

Individuals with PD and their care partners may require community resources and/or may need to find additional caregiver help in the home and information regarding finances and planning for the future. Lack of facial expression, deficits in speech and decreased breath support may impact communication and individuals may have cognitive deficits. Correct and timely medication regimens are also integral to safe and efficient management of symptoms.

Home health clinicians with specialized training coordinate closely with all team members to target the deficits associated with Parkinson’s disease.  RNs, PTs, OTs, STs, MSWs and CNAs enable their patients with PD to meet their goals and maximize their potential.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Susie Lefebvre, PT, of Boulder Community Home Care. For more information she can be reached at 303-415-4515