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What a Nurse or Provider Needs to know about Parkinson’s Disease

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Parkinson is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the US. According to the Mayo Clinic, Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is defined as follows:

“Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.”

Nursing care is aimed at managing/controlling symptoms, promoting independence and dealing with the chronicity of the disease, therefore, nurses should take course not only for license renewal, but to better prepare for the task ahead

There is a wide range of symptoms, for an instance The Michael J. Fox Foundation mentions Motor and Non-Motor symptoms:

Motor Symptoms

People are usually more familiar with the motor (movement) symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD). These signs are noticeable from the outside and are used by doctors to make a diagnosis. The three "cardinal" motor symptoms of PD are:

· Stiffness (rigidity): muscle stiffness detected by a doctor on examination

· Slowness (bradykinesia): decrease in spontaneous and voluntary movement; may include slower walking, less arm swinging while walking, or decreased blinking or facial expression

· Resting tremor: a rhythmic, involuntary shaking that occurs in a finger, hand or limb when it's relaxed and disappears during voluntary movement

Non-motor Symptoms

These includes mood and thinking changes, and other autonomic dysfunctions as well.

Every nurse or caregiver should be prepared and know what to expect

In addition to this online CEU course, many resources will be recommended during the course and public libraries have literature on the disease. Whenever possible, accompany the person with Parkinson’s to their medical appointments and ask questions of the doctor, nurse, and social worker.

The areas to assess include your patient or loved one’s needs, both your perceptions and theirs, your home environment, and your own health, emotional state, and other commitments. The caregiver has to determine how much they can and can’t do themselves and what type of outside support is needed. It is also important to assess current and future financial issues such as health insurance coverage, employment (both caregiver and the person with Parkinson’s), managing expenses, and if or when to secure Power of Attorney.

The disease and its treatments can cause emotional, behavioral or psychological symptoms that need to be brought to the attention of the patient’s nurse or healthcare provider. These include:

  • Anxiety and depression: During the variable course of the disease, 40 percent to 50 percent of Parkinson’s patients will experience anxiety and/or depression at one time or another.

  • Personality changes: Changes in the brain brought on by the disease may also result in personality changes such as rigidity, carelessness, or introversion.

  • Impulsive/compulsive behaviors: About 15 percent of Parkinson’s patients may also engage in impulsive or compulsive behaviors that can range from impulsive internet use to sexual preoccupations, hoarding, gambling, charity donations, and eating.

Family members and nurses need to know that certain behaviors are caused by the disease or by the very medications used to treat it.

Definitely you’ll need help —don’t try to do it all yourself

Get help—don’t try to do it all alone. By getting help, a caregiver can lessen their sense of isolation, and it gives you more confidence in your own caregiving ability. Having help increases your ability to think creatively and helps you get those needed breaks. Help is available through local and community services. These include:

  • Calling on trusted family and friends/neighbors to provide a break for a few hours periodically, or to seek professional, in-home help.

  • Other organizations such as churches, synagogues, senior centers, adult day health, etc.

  • Seeking the support of friends, family members, groups, or therapists.

  • Meals on Wheels and door-to-door vans. For a fee there is in-home care for help with cooking, bathing, dressing, and meal preparation. In addition, a social worker from your health plan or hospital can connect you with other services.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself

Probably one of the most important, and sometimes difficult, things caregivers can do is to take care of themselves. This includes maintaining mental and physical health by making and keeping your own medical and dental appointments. Continue to live life, to go out with friends, take a hike, create something, and as much as possible do whatever you did before the diagnosis to enjoy life.

Whether you are a caregiver looking to prepare yourself for taking care of a PD patient, or a nurse seeking license renewal, this online course will help you achieve your goals.

To know more:

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