Preparing Your Loved One for Home Health Care

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What Home Health Services Offer Individuals With Parkinson's Disease

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Parkinson's disease is a progressive movement disorder for which there currently is no cure. Therefore, depending on the stage of your Parkinson's disease and the severity of your symptoms, you may eventually require a variety of home health services–the goals of which are to help you manage the disease and improve your quality of life.

Based on your individualized needs, your home care plan may include a wide range of services such as:

Assistance with homemaking tasks. Declining motor skills can make normal daily activities more difficult to do. The advanced stages of Parkinson's disease can make these activities nearly impossible for individuals to complete without assistance.

Medication management. Individuals with Parkinson's disease usually have to take several medications to manage the symptoms; therefore home health services agencies often offer medication management therapy programs. If you need this service, a home health professional will review all your medications with you and monitor whether they are helping you. He or she will instruct you on how to take your medications so that they provide the most benefit, discuss possible drug reactions, and answer any questions that you or your family may have about your medications.

Physical therapy. Because Parkinson's disease can cause stiffness, weakness, tremors, and balance and gait problems–all symptoms that contribute to the inability to move normally–a regular exercise program along with medication may help control symptoms of the disease for a time by improving strength and muscle tone.

A physical therapist can also assess the need of an individual with a chronic gait disorder for ambulatory devices to help improve balance, decrease the risk of falls, and conserve energy. You may require additional ambulatory assistance for activities such as climbing stairs.

Occupational therapy. Since individuals with Parkinson's disease can have problems with everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, and eating, an occupational therapist can help you manage these tasks by offering advice on easier ways to accomplish them. He or she may suggest the use of dressing and grooming aids, adaptive eating utensils, and bath and toilet aids.

As your symptoms change over time and you become less independent, you may need personal care assistance. An occupational therapist will also assess the safety of your home and may recommend the use of handrails and other mobility aids.

Speech therapy. Other symptoms of Parkinson's disease sometimes include difficulty speaking or trouble swallowing–symptoms with which a speech-language therapist can help. He or she can instruct you on exercises to strengthen weakened muscles if you have these problems. If your ability to communicate verbally becomes severely limited, a speech therapist can recommend devices, such as language boards, amplifiers, dental appliances, and voice synthesizers, available to help you communicate better.

Nutritional counseling. Although people with Parkinson's disease need not eat a special diet, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes lots of high-fiber foods will give you more energy and help your medications work better. Also, levodopa–a key drug that doctors prescribe to treat Parkinson's symptoms–may not be as effective if you eat a high protein diet

Cognitive/memory stimulation therapy. In some people, Parkinson's medications can cause cognitive side effects. You can also develop dementia that impairs your memory, thinking, and judgment. If dementia is mild or moderate, cognitive stimulation therapies includes planned activities and exercise to improve memory and thinking. Behavioral and mood changes are other symptoms you can experience whether caused by the disease or medications you take.

Nursing care. As Parkinson's disease becomes more debilitating, a nurse can manage the numerous medications, educate you about the disease and how to live with it, continually evaluate your care, and provide emotional support to you and your family.