Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that develops slowly over time. About 10,000,000 people around the world (including 1,000,000 in the U.S. and 55,000 in Canada) live with Parkinson’s. This is a long-lasting condition (up to 20 years) that has no cure. However, medications and therapies are available to help people manage their symptoms better.
It is likely you know (or know of) someone with Parkinson’s. However, some of the facts about this condition may be surprising. Test yourself on the following true or false questions.
- People with Parkinson’s develop symptoms that only relate to movements such as walking, standing and use of their hands. Movement challenges are the best known Parkinson’s symptoms, but there are over 20 possible non-movement symptoms. Some of those symptoms can begin years before movement symptoms. These include constipation, runny nose, drops in blood pressure, sleep challenges, slow thinking, mood disorders and diminished sense of smell.
- Some people with Parkinson’s disease experience mild cognitive impairment. TRUE. About 25-50 percent of people with Parkinson’s develop mild cognitive impairment along with other symptoms of Parkinson’s. This mild cognitive impairment can begin any time during the course of Parkinson’s, including before movement symptoms appear. While this impairment can be frustrating and irritating, it is not disabling to activities of daily living, such as dressing, eating and bathing.
- People living with Parkinson’s need to give up activities like dancing early in this condition. FALSE. Dance – with music or even with rhythm only – is of particular help to people with Parkinson’s. Following the beat in music can help them walk more fluidly and without the hesitation known as “freezing” (feeling as if their feet are glued to the floor). Counting numbers rhythmically while walking also can help a person with Parkinson’s move more smoothly. There is a dance program designed for people with Parkinson’s called Dance for PD.
- Some people living with Parkinson’s disease experience dementia as part of this condition. TRUE. Parkinson’s dementia occurs in about 40 percent of cases, though not necessarily in the same people who experience Parkinson’s mild cognitive impairment. This dementia typically begins about a decade into the disease. Symptoms include challenges with attention, decision-making, visual-spatial abilities, memory and language. Apathy, excessive daytime sleepiness, mood changes or psychosis may also occur.
- Movement symptoms have the greatest effect on quality of life. People living with Parkinson’s more often point to non-movement symptoms such as depression and anxiety as having the most impact on their quality of life.
- People living with Parkinson’s are more than twice as likely to fall (or nearly fall) than people without this condition. Falls are of concern, beginning with early Parkinson’s. Several common symptoms of Parkinson’s converge to double the fall risks compared to people without Parkinson’s. Some symptoms that factor into falls include postural changes, muscle rigidity, visual changes, drops in blood pressure and slow movements.
If you or a loved one need additional help at home to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s, ComForCare/At Your Side Home Care can help. We customize care to fit your needs. Our caregivers can provide companionship, personal care and standby assistance to help prevent falls. Call 800-866-4044 to learn more.