Parkinson's disease is a medical condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over a long time. Parkinson's disease is caused by a loss of nerve cells in part of the brain called the substantia nigra. This leads to a reduction in a chemical called dopamine in the brain. There is no cure for Parkinson's, however there are several ways to manage the challenges and ongoing issues you or your loved one may face living with Parkinson’s:
Exercise is important to us all - but you may find the benefits to be even greater if you or someone you care for has Parkinson’s. Even as little as 2.5 hours per week can slow the progression of Parkinson’s. Exercise can help to ease physical symptoms and help with other issues like sleep problems, metal health and improving your general mood. Joining an exercise class could have even more benefits as you or your loved one may find a new hobby, new friends and a new lease of life. It may be worth having a look online or talking to local gyms/leisure centres to see if there are any groups specifically aimed at people who do have Parkinson’s. For someone with more complex symptoms try exercising while seated or practising rising and sitting with a chair. Parkinson’s exercise groups will accommodate people at all stages, with different needs and abilities and help you or your loved one to find what best suits their symptoms.
Physiotherapy can be used to help with joint pain or muscle cramps – the aim of a physiotherapist is to help with movement, improving walking, flexibility and fitness levels. This could help you to keep or regain independence with certain aspects of daily life.
An Occupational Therapist can help with struggles you may be having with day to day life – they can asses your needs and advise how to improve your way of life, be it through specialist equipment or other methods they aim to help you live independently at home. Your OT can also work with your live-in carer to ensure you remain living life the way you want.
Speech therapy can help with dysphagia (problems with swallowing) and improving speech. Speech therapists can also supply specialist assistive technology if required.
Making changes to your diet can influence the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Drinking enough water is important to us all, this can help to reduce constipation along with increasing the amount of fibre you are getting from foods. Increasing the amount of salt in your diet can help with low blood pressure – this reduces dizziness so may stop the light-headed feeling that sometimes comes from standing up quickly.
Maintaining a healthy weight will affect all aspects of life – staying mobile requires strength in the body, which you can ensure you have through the foods you eat. Dietitians and health care professionals can give you advice and help to meal plan, making sure you are getting the all-important vitamins and nutrition the body needs. Your live-in carer can help you maintain this diet by cooking nutritious home cooked meals.
Medication can help with the main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease like tremors and movement problems. The 3 main medications are Levodopa, dopamine agonists and monoamine oxidase-B inhibitors. A specialist can help to explain all the options and figure out what will suit you and your symptoms best. Levodopa is the most commonly used medication for Parkinson’s disease, it helps with movement – the drug is absorbed into the nerves calls in your brain and turned into dopamine, which is used to send messages from your brain to nerves through the body.
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