April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, and the already active Parkinson’s community gets into high gear to raise awareness of this disease that touches the lives of so many. In fact, you may already be thinking of someone you know who is affected by the disease. More than one million people in the U.S. have Parkinson’s disease and that number makes supporting the Parkinson’s community even more important. By raising awareness, the hope is to improve the quality of life of those who have been diagnosed and to advance research toward medical breakthroughs—and ultimately, a cure.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s is a chronic and progressive brain disorder of the central nervous system. The motor symptoms—tremor, slowness, stiffness, along with balance and walking issues—result from the death of cells that make dopamine. In short, dopamine is the chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination.
Men are more likely to be affected by the disease than women. Committing himself to helping increase awareness and research for a cure, actor Michael J. Fox went public with his own struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He was diagnosed with young-onset in 1991 at the age of 29. The average age onset is 60, but people have been diagnosed as young as 18. Every nine minutes there is a new diagnosis, which means that in April alone nearly 5,000 people in this country will learn that they have Parkinson’s disease.
While the exact cause of the disease is not known, it is attributed to both genetic and environmental factors such as family history, genetic mutations, drinking well water, and exposure to pesticides or metals.
Parkinson’s is a lifelong, progressive disease—meaning that symptoms will slowly worsen over time. In addition to the changes in motor skills, a person with the disease can also experience depression, constipation, sleep issues, pain, and cognitive dysfunction. All this can make activities of daily living challenging. At Assisting Hands® Home Care, we understand how daunting living well with Parkinson’s can be for clients and their family caregivers. We have skilled and compassionate home caregivers who can help them through the routine of daily living.
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, prescribed medications, surgery, along with healthy lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise can alleviate some of the symptoms. Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, may provide relief from symptoms as well. By taking an active role, those with Parkinson’s can live a full and active life for many years.