Parkinson's Disease is a condition that affects many seniors, yet it is talked about far less often than Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias. No two people experience Parkinson's precisely the same way, yet there are some commonalities. Parkinson's affects about one million people in the United States and 10 million worldwide. It's a condition we frequently see in Assisted Living Communities like Regency Senior Living.
The brain disorder causes a gradual loss of muscle control. Distinctive signs of the disease include tremors, stiffness, slowed body movements, and poor balance. Actor Michael J. Fox and boxer Muhammad Ali developed Parkinson's early in life, at ages 30 and 42 respectively. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone with Parkinson's has a tremor like these celebrities giving a face to the disease.
The symptoms of Parkinson's tend to be mild at first and can sometimes be overlooked as they develop slowly over about 20 years, according to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. The symptoms may not be apparent for a while. Experts say the life expectancy for those with Parkinson's is about the same as those without the condition.
Some early signs of Parkinson's can be confused with other conditions. These include a rhythmic shaking of fingers or hands while in use, along with stiffness, difficulty getting out of a chair, stooped posture, or a frozen expression on the face. Slowed movement or suddenly freezing in place can also be a sign of the impairment, although usually in the advanced stages. Doctors use these progressive stages to determine the best treatment.
A change in handwriting may be a sign of Parkinson's disease called Micrographia. Writing can naturally change as you get older due to stiff hands or fingers or poor vision impacting your ability to hold a pen and see well.
"If you seem to have more trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles or licorice, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson's," advises the Parkinson's Foundation website. "Have you been told that you have a serious, depressed or mad look on your face, even when you are not in a bad mood? This is often called facial masking."
All seniors can be affected by balance problems that pose the risk of falling, but this is especially true for someone with Parkinson's, which develops as a stooped posture with drooping shoulders. The rigidity of muscles is another sign of Parkinson's and one of the things that doctors examine. He or she may refer you to a neurologist, along with an occupational therapist, physical therapist or speech therapist.
It's essential that someone who has Parkinson's live in an environment where things they can trip on, such as rugs or cords, are removed and grab bars help with mobility in the bathroom. For these reasons, an Assisted Living environment can be a good match for a person with Parkinson's who needs help with simple tasks as motor skills decline.
Beyond the more obvious physical symptoms, people with Parkinson's may sometimes experience difficulty swallowing, confusion and memory problems, restless sleep, daytime fatigue, slurred speech, constipation, oily skin, and dandruff. Mood changes in the form of anxiety and depression also make things more challenging for those with Parkinson's, as well as their caregivers.
A diagnosis from a medical professional can determine whether tremors are from Parkinson's or another condition. A more common source of shaking known as "essential tremor" is distinguished from Parkinson's by getting worse when a hand is in motion, as opposed to stationary.
Experts from the National Parkinson Foundation say the average person with Parkinson's gets the condition at age 62. Males and those with a family history are more likely to have it. Parkinson's occurs when part of the brain stem stops making a chemical called dopamine that helps nerve cells communicate. The disruption causes a failure of the brain to control movement usually.
A drug called Levodopa has been used since the 1970s to treat Parkinson's. Side effects of the drug after long-term use include nausea, drowsiness, hallucinations, paranoia, vomiting, and involuntary movements. Other medications can mimic dopamine. Regular monitoring of the liver may be needed, as well as avoidance of certain antidepressants. In extreme cases, electrodes may be surgically implanted in the brain or radio-frequency energy used to destroy parts of the brain stem associated with tremors, rigidity or bradykinesia.
As with many conditions, a well-balanced diet can positively impact the condition. Calcium and vitamin D help with bone strength while high-fiber meals alleviate constipation. Researchers continue to investigate possible supplements or substances to protect the neurons damaged by Parkinson's.
Exercise also helps to ease the condition by allowing the brain to use dopamine more efficiently, plus getting more exercise improves coordination and balance. The treatment for Parkinson's depends on managing the specific symptoms that manifest since there is no single magic pill to cover everything at this time.
Assisting living communities staffed with compassionate caregivers and grab bars to prevent falls can make life easier and preserve more independence for those living with Parkinson's disease.
To learn more about Parkinson's, visit http://parkinson.org/ To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.
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When the time comes to make senior care arrangements, many difficulties can derive as a result from families facing the harsh realities of change. There are numerous explanations as to why the discussion of assisted living is the cause of confrontation; some of these may include senior loved ones who are misinformed or have antiquated information regarding what retirement communities used to be like, others may lack the effort to communicate effectively to loved ones, many times there are either too many conflicting opinions when planning, or all of the above. Listed below are the most common conflicts families face while discussing senior care planning for loved ones whom have expressed an objection to assisted living and the possible solutions you can take to address and overcome these obstacles.
Are your parents denying the need for senior care? For instance, do your aging parents have a worsening disability? Perhaps they are experiencing a harder time maneuvering around the house, but deny it? We often consult with families who question, “How soon is too soon?” The answer is never! The best thing you can do for your loved ones is to research your options first. Find what works best for you and your family financially, geographically, and the provided senior care services. Research can also be extended to consulting with your senior’s primary health care professional, as they know their patient well. Likewise, our trusted Regency community consultants are available to provide you and your loved ones with the knowledge and understanding to make an informed decision regarding senior care planning.
Are your parents opposed to the possibility of senior care? This behavior is completely normal when seniors reach a season of life where living alone becomes almost impossible without some level of assisted care. If not communicated effectively, the conversation between an aging parent, child, or loved one can end in an argument, resulting in hurt feelings. A tip to communicate effectively: be brief and to the point. Express the areas of concern, let them know that their wellness is of most importance and provide information on possible ways to address the issues. While it is necessary to express your concerns thoughtfully, it is also just as necessary to listen to their concerns carefully. Once these have been addressed, create a list of pros and cons to assisted living and living at home with a caretaker. Debra Feldman, a senior care specialist, emphasizes to practice sensitivity and patience during this vulnerable time. Take things slow, as it may take some time for everyone to agree on the matter.
Does your family disagree on senior care? With more people involved, there is a greater chance that not everyone will see eye-to-eye. While avoiding conflict may be the easier path to keeping the peace, it may not be in the best interest of your loved ones. The path of least resistance is not always the best path to resolving senior care needs. If confronted with struggle of conflicting opinions, we strongly suggest you seek a family mediator to help execute non-biased decisions with senior care, estate planning, and inheritances if a will is not set in place. When the time comes to deal with these issues after your parents have passed, it will only become more complex as time goes on and resentment grows. Aside from the difficulties that often accompany the topic of senior living, we encourage you to consider the best options for your aging loved ones early, no matter the age. If you wish to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, we are here to answer any of your questions. We would be overjoyed to have you visit our community for a no obligation consultation and to welcome you and your loved ones into our Regency family.
Written by: Katie Hanley
As it turns out, the key to happiness later in life is not personal wealth, although having money does make it a bit easier. No, the real secret to a happy life is having good relationships – with spouses, with friends and family. This month, we dig deeper to find out why and learn how moving into an Assisted Living community can improve this happiness.
Harvard University began a study tracking 724 men back in 1938. They came from different backgrounds, including college students and some living in Boston’s poorest neighborhoods. Every two years, these men have been interviewed by researchers about their lives and given medical exams to study their brains and blood. Most of the surviving participants are in their 90s.
The study’s fourth director, Robert Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said 75 years of research has given us solid clues about what leads to happier and healthier lives versus lives dominated by struggles with depression and health problems. Strong social bonds play a vital role in protecting long-term physical and mental health. Those challenged by health problems are more likely to become isolated and experience feelings of melancholy in old age.
It’s not always easy making new friends at ANY age. When we are in our teens and 20s, the institutions of school and career provide ample opportunities to make friends because we spend so much time with other people. Waldinger suggested those who make an effort to replace workplace friends and colleagues with new friends after retiring are more likely to be happier in their senior years.
Those connected to family, friends, the community are generally happier and physically healthier, living longer than those who are less well connected. In contrast, those who are mostly isolated aren’t as happy and have shorter lives. Those in unhappy relationships at age 50 reported their emotional pain magnified their physical pain at age 80. H. Jackson Brown Jr. was right when he wrote that, “the decision of who to marry will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.”
Romantic feelings may be hard for many couples to sustain for generations, but even those in the study who bickered frequently with their spouses showed signs of sharper memories if they were paired with someone who they felt they could count on during tough times. This suggests that a secure relationship helps the brain.
Rather than finding that happier relationships cause better health later in life, the Harvard study suggests that people who are healthier are more likely to make and maintain satisfying relationships. It just makes sense that someone who feels miserable much of the time will project this on others and be less likely to attract companionship. This heightens the importance of listening to doctors when they tell us to monitor our blood pressure, eat healthier and stay physically active.
Where does Assisted Living come into this?
A move to a senior living community can be a rescue from the isolation of living in solitude. While we all appreciate our privacy and the freedom to take “me time”, a structured environment designed to facilitate making new social connections can not only kill loneliness but contribute to life-extending happiness.
At Regency, we have Activity Directors to plan exercise and fun outings. Rather than sitting isolated in a house, seniors come together to play games, watch movies together, have meals together, worship as a group, and much more. Calendars placed in our newsletters and posted around the community preview good times of joint fun ahead.
When someone new moves to the community, an activity director typically conducts an activities survey to ask the new resident what he or she enjoys doing. Even someone who was an only child and has been introverted most of his or her life can make fast friends when talking to someone they have things in common with during meal times.
Considering a move to Assisted Living can be a scary proposition for the senior, but once they’ve lived here for a few weeks, most feel a genuine sense of belonging in a new family. Some may discover that they are social butterflies spreading their “wings” for the first time in their lives. Researchers are confident that strong social bonds like these play an important role in protecting our long-term physical and mental health.
To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.
After the long winter, it’s great to know that longer, warmer days are ahead. Active seniors welcome the opportunity to get outdoors.
Here are a few ideas for getting more enjoyment out of springtime:
Seniors and caregivers should check with their doctor before participating in any strenuous activity. Not only is getting outdoors good for Vitamin D production, but the fresh air can actually boost happiness, which is important considering the rise of feelings of depression during the colder months.
Say goodbye to winter and hello to springtime. To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.
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