Care of Loved ones with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease in the African American community is not discussed but is seen daily in the lives of many caregivers. With information and awareness, families with Parkinson’s can be enabled to advocate for the quality of life they deserve. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and complex neurological disease, not an acute illness. Symptoms vary widely, and disease can vary considerably. Parkinson’s disease presents as a slow, progressive disease, and often, loved ones can live well past their sixties. Because this disease is considered a motor disorder, safety should be high on a caregiver’s radar. Safety is a concern due to the symptoms of slowness, stiffness, and tremors. Also, problems may appear as symptoms of vision fluctuation, thinking variations, anxiety, loss of smell, toileting changes, and sleep disturbances.

Surgery and Medication Decision

While Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured, some medications might improve symptoms. Sometimes, a doctor may suggest surgery to adjust certain regions of your brain and improve your symptoms. Deep brain stimulation is a surgical procedure performed for Parkinson’s and is a leading and promising treatment for those who don’t respond to oral medications. The decision should be made with wisdom and sometimes a second opinion.

Risk Factors for Parkinson’s Disease

There are risk factors to consider and take under advisement. This is another reason to consider genetic testing and research — three areas to alert caregivers to investigate. The age of loved ones will show signs of the disease around age 60. Family planning decisions should start once this condition is detected. Heredity increases the chances that you’ll develop the disease. Men are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than women. However, the symptoms remain the same.

As Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate, I know that research is the best way to address the care and treatment of Parkinson’s disease in the African American community. The community must embrace the benefits of research studies. We all have a role in helping generations fight for the most up-to-date treatments available. Because the cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, there are no proven ways to prevent the disease; however, doing our part will help reduce health disparities, which will improve care. Be Safe! Be Well!

Dr. Cynthia J. Hickman is a retired registered nurse and case manager, CEO of Your Proactive Caregiver Advocate and author of From the Lens of Daughter, Nurse, and Caregiver: A Journey of Duty and Honor, and The Black Book of Important Information for Caregivers.

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