Parkinson’s disease is caused when nerve cells (neurons) located in the substantia nigra (a part of the brain) die of or stop working correctly. The neurons are supposed to produce dopamine, which allows your body’s muscles to move easily, smoothly and correctly. The disease occurs when around 80% of the cells that produce the dopamine are damaged, according to the National Parkinson Foundation. They give a list of signs and symptoms of the disease, which include: tremors (shaking), slowness of movement, rigidity (stiffness), difficulty with balance, small cramped handwriting, stiff facial expression, shuffling walk, muffled speech, and depression.
Statistics according to the National Parkinson’s Foundation state that in the United States an estimated 60,000 new cases are found each year, adding to the already 1.5 million Americans who already have the disease. They also state that the condition normally develops after the age of 65, but 15% of these statistics is under the age of 50.
There are several different types of medication that can be administered to a Parkinson’s patient to ease the symptoms of the disease. Most of these medications are used to replace the dopamine that is no longer being produced by the neurons in the brain.
I myself have been with my husband for only 6 years now and he is a Parkinson’s patient. When I first met him and he explained a little about the disease to me, I had no idea what I was in for. There are times when his tremors are so intense that it seems as though he is having a full-blown seizure. His arms and legs will get so stiff that they seem to have a circulation problem from it. I have also had to catch him quite a few times when he will be standing fine and then all of the sudden he begins to just tumble over, lose his balance, and sometimes even fall completely to the ground.
I know that people who have never had to deal with this think that it sounds a lot worse to deal with then it actually is. I do go through a lot of stress, and there are times when I actually will sit and cry because I hurt from not being able to help my husband. Then one day, I was surfing the web and came across some interesting websites, teaching me about Parkinson’s disease, the treatments, and even what to do as a caregiver. One website that I go to is Parkinson’s disease Caregiver Information at www.myparkinsons.org. On this site, there are other sites and foundations you can be directed to check out. They even have a section you can go to on this site called Parkinson’s Training for Caregivers, where they offer a free course on the internet to train caregivers in long-term care situations.
Being a caregiver of a Parkinson’s patient is not easy, but it’s not all that difficult either. I do worry sometimes when I leave my house that my husband may fall or may cut himself on accident due to a tremor, or anything else that could go wrong. I also worry when he is out and about himself, just going to town or to a friend’s house. I worry he made have a bad tremor that could cause an accident while driving. I do worry and I do still have a lot of stress, nut I have learned to cope with it. Do I feel he’s a burden? No. Do I sometimes wish that there was a cure and that he could be fine? Yes all the time. Do I lose sleep because of his health? Yes, on occasion I do, but its all part of the caring process. There have been many times I have stayed up for days, because his tremors are so bad that I want to make sure I am there when he needs something, even as simple as getting a drink. However, like I have stated so many times, I have learned to cope with his Parkinson’s and so can any caregiver. You just need to learn and better understand the disease itself.
By learning about the disease and learning more about being a caregiver, I have been able to better understand the disease and therefore it has lifted a lot of stress and worry from me. There are counselors out there that can also help you through learning how to cope with being the caregiver, family member, or even just friend of the Parkinson’s patient.