For years and years, we have provided care and services for residents living with Parkinson’s disease and know the disease is debilitating and often leads to death. However, in the past 10 years, mortality rates have increased significantly according to a study published by the American Academy of Neurology. What is interesting in the study is that there are no significant differences by sex and race/ethnicity as we often see with other diseases.
As with all disease processes, there are early signs of Parkinson’s disease that residents may exhibit to alert us to seek an evaluation by a neurologist:
- A tremor or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often in the hands and fingers
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia)
- Rigid muscles (stiff leg walking)
- Impaired posture and balance (humped back, leans forward, often off-balance)
Although Parkinson’s disease is basically a diagnosis by exclusion, the neurologist may rule out other factors or diseases prior to making a diagnosis, it is important that treatment be initiated timely and consistently to escape avoidable decline. It is also important to recognize that there are five (5) distinct stages of the disease which guides treatment protocols.
This debilitating disease has no known cure, it affects men twice as often as women, and only about 10% of people with Parkinson’s disease report having a family member with the disease. As you walk through your center and interact with your residents, take a few extra minutes to pay closer attention to the subtle changes you may be missing otherwise. Is someone’s gait slower, are they shuffling more than before, maybe they are choking during their meals, spilling their coffee due to tremors, or a change in facial affect.
Your residents may not be aware of subtle changes until they are asked about them or they may be afraid to point them out to their healthcare provider. Early treatment is key, add this to your list of assessments your physician or physician extender can perform relatively easily. It takes a village, Stay well, stay informed, and stay tuned!