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Is Parkinson’s a Disability?

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A senior with trembling hands is trying to reach a glass of water.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects movement, muscle control, and balance. It’s considered a disability. 

As the disease advances, it can significantly impact an individual’s ability to perform daily activities and maintain independence.

Assisted living communities can provide lifestyle options tailored to the unique needs of individuals with Parkinson’s, helping them receive the necessary assistance while maintaining their independence and quality of life. 

These communities offer various services and amenities designed to accommodate the specific requirements of those living with this condition.

What Is Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive and chronic movement disorder, meaning that its symptoms worsen over time. It occurs when certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain gradually break down or die.

Many symptoms are due to a loss of neurons that produce dopamine, a chemical messenger responsible for transmitting signals within the brain that coordinate movement.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can include:

  • Tremors or shaking
  • Slowness of movement 
  • Stiffness or rigidity of trunk and limbs
  • Impaired balance and coordination 

Additional symptoms may include:

  • Changes in speech
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Cognitive changes, such as memory problems or difficulty thinking
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Emotional changes, such as depression or anxiety

The 5 Stages of Parkinson’s Disease

We categorize the progression of Parkinson’s disease into 5 stages based on the level of clinical disability. These stages can help clinicians describe how motor symptoms advance in individuals with Parkinson’s.

Stage 1: In this initial stage, individuals experience mild symptoms that generally do not interfere with daily activities. Tremor and other movement symptoms occur only on one side of the body, and changes in posture, walking, and facial expressions become noticeable.

Stage 2: As symptoms worsen, tremors, rigidity, and other movement issues affect both sides of the body or the midline (such as the neck and trunk). Walking problems and poor posture may become apparent. Although they can still live alone, daily tasks become more difficult and time-consuming.

Stage 3: Regarded as the mid-stage, loss of balance becomes a significant concern, leading to instability when turning or being pushed from a standing position. Falls become more common, and motor symptoms continue to worsen. At this stage, the individual experiences some restrictions in their daily activities but retains the physical capability to lead an independent life. Disability is mild to moderate during this phase.

Stage 4: In this stage, fully developed symptoms cause severe disability. The person can still walk and stand without assistance but may require a cane or walker for safety. Significant help with activities of daily living is needed, and living alone is no longer an option.

Stage 5: This is the most advanced and debilitating stage of Parkinson’s disease. Stiffness in the legs may render standing or walking impossible. The person becomes bedridden or requires a wheelchair unless aided. At this stage, all activities require around-the-clock care.

A close-up of shaking hands of a person suffering from Parkinson's disease.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s affects approximately 1 million people in the United States alone. Diagnosis can be difficult, but some common factors may contribute to its onset. To better understand what causes Parkinson’s and how to reduce the risk of developing it, let’s examine the roles of genetics, environment, age, gender, and lifestyle factors.

Genetics & Environment

Research suggests that both environmental factors and genetics play a role in causing Parkinson’s disease. Scientists have identified several genes associated with the condition, but these only account for 10–15% of cases.

Environmental factors, such as exposure to chemicals or certain toxins, may also increase the risk of developing this disorder. However, more research is needed to understand how these factors influence Parkinson’s development.

Age & Gender

Age is another factor associated with an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Most people diagnosed with the condition are over 60 years old, although younger patients have also been diagnosed.

Additionally, men are more likely than women to develop this disorder, with estimates suggesting that men account for two-thirds of all cases worldwide.

Lifestyle Factors

Some lifestyle factors may also increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. These include smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol excessively, and having a diet low in antioxidants or omega-3 fatty acids.

Individuals who engage in these activities may have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s compared to those who do not. However, it’s important to note that while lifestyle choices don’t guarantee you will get Parkinson’s, they can increase the chances of developing it if other risk factors are present.

Caring for Someone with Parkinson’s Disease

Caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s disease can be an emotional and challenging experience. However, with the right approach, you can support your loved one while maintaining a strong relationship and empowering them to live their life to the fullest. 

This section explores various tips to help you navigate the caregiving journey for someone with Parkinson’s disease.

Attend Doctors’ Appointments: Accompany your loved one to medical appointments to ask questions, take notes, and provide insight into symptoms or issues they may not mention.

Be Observant: Monitor changes in symptoms, abilities, and moods, as well as the impact of medication or therapy adjustments.

Be Flexible: Recognize the fluctuation of Parkinson’s symptoms over time and prepare to adapt plans accordingly. Encourage independence by allowing your loved one to complete tasks independently before offering assistance.

Make Sure Medications Are Taken: Consistent medication intake is crucial for managing Parkinson’s symptoms. Develop a mutually agreed-upon system, such as smartphone reminders or a visible wall calendar, to help your loved one remember their medicine.

Navigating the Challenges of Parkinson’s Disease

At Brooklyn Pointe Assisted Living & Memory Care, we understand the challenges faced by individuals with Parkinson’s disease and their families. Our compassionate caregiving staff is dedicated to providing personalized support for your loved one, helping them maintain their independence and dignity. 

With comprehensive training and unwavering empathy, our team can help your loved one receive the care they deserve, allowing you to enjoy peace of mind.Schedule a visit today to discover how Brooklyn Pointe Assisted Living & Memory Care can provide a nurturing and supportive home for your loved one with Parkinson’s disease.

Written by Angela Clark

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