Caregivers can help ease some common symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s disease affects many thousands of people in the United States. According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, around 60,000 Americans are diagnosed each year, most of whom are over 60 years old. There is no doubt that caring for someone living with Parkinson’s disease is a tough challenge. Although, at the moment, there is no cure, a rehabilitation program like the “Big and Loud” rehabilitation model that has been specifically tailored towards the needs of Parkinson’s patients can work towards controlling symptoms affecting movement and speech. Additionally, a combination of medication and healthy lifestyle choices can work to alleviate some Parkinson’s disease symptoms.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
The American Parkinson Disease Association describes Parkinson’s as, “a type of movement disorder that can affect the ability to perform common, daily activities.” It affects nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control movement. The disease causes the nerve cells to break down and, as a result, the body receives less dopamine. In consequence, muscles cannot function properly and movement becomes difficult.
Food to Help Body and Mind
The right balance of vitamins and nutrients can help maintain the body and support the aging mind. A low-fat, low-sugar diet full of fruit, vegetables and whole-grains is essential regardless of disease. Additionally, eating healthy, organic foods can reduce toxicity in the body. A healthy diet is important for Parkinson’s patients who have specific nutritional needs.
Adjusting the diet of someone with Parkinson’s disease may strengthen the mind and body against its effects. Changes that can be made include making sure that every meal contains items from each food group to ensure a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. High-fiber vegetables can help the digestion, as can using whole-grain foods. Items to avoid include, sugary foods and drinks, salt, and foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. Excessive protein can interfere with some medication, so protein in the diet of a Parkinson’s patient should be limited.
Easing Symptoms and Side-effects
There are also dietary and lifestyle changes that can help deal with common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and the side-effects of medication. These can include nausea, uneasiness, diarrhea, constipation and lack of appetite.
In order to alleviate some of these symptoms, those with Parkinson’s disease should drink clear, ice-cold drinks with little or no sugar and make sure that they take small sips. In terms of eating, food should be chewed slowly and patients should try eating smaller amounts more often. Fried and greasy food should be avoided, and hot and cold food eaten separately. Making sure that a patient’s head is elevated can also help to prevent an upset stomach.
If a Parkinson’s patient is being cared for in a healthcare setting, it’s important to make sure that the staff are on board with the patient’s dietary needs and that they can help ease symptoms by propping the patient up and assisting fluid intake.
Other Symptoms and Side-effects
Parkinson’s disease is progressive, and symptoms change with time. Medication may be adjusted to deal with the progression of the disease and this may cause mental and physical side-effects.
There are a few things that caregivers can do to help with some common symptoms. These include making sure that the patient drinks lots of water in order to avoid headaches caused by dehydration. If headaches are caused by muscle tension, a magnesium supplement may also help. To combat difficulty sleeping, caregivers can make sure that light and noise is kept to a minimum at bedtime and that the patient avoids exercise, alcohol and caffeine at night.
Where a patient is experiencing cold-like symptoms, these may be eased with green tea, and the addition of garlic, ginger, bone broth and lemon to the diet. Finally, being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. It’s, therefore, important that caregivers watch out for symptoms and make sure that the patient seeks the appropriate help.
Although, at the moment, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, following these steps may help caregivers and patients alleviate some of the common symptoms of the disease and the side-effects caused by medication.
With thanks to contributing author Lucy Windham.
Lucy has spent over a decade in residential care, working her way up to management level. During this time she saw every aspect of senior care including working with many patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease. Now a mother of two, she’s taken a step back to enjoy freelance writing and to spend more time with her family.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.