Helping with Parkinson’s Disease: 5+ Useful Online Resources to Help You Support Your Friends & Loved Ones

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system which mainly affects the movement of the body. This neuro-degenerative disease starts with a mere tremor in your hands which gradually develops into the disorder causing slowed movements and stiffness. The early stages of the disease are characterized by little or no facial expressions, swinging of arms while walking, and slurred speech. However, the symptoms worsen with time and grow into an incurable disease. Medicines can only help you improve your conditions but there is no cure for Parkinson’s known yet.

One way to cope better with the disease is to study that what does it do to your brain and how can you help yourself during the situation. If you or any of your loved ones are suffering from Parkinson’s disease and you want to help them, this article is for you. It highlights the major information about the disease and some reliable sources to get help from. So, let’s begin.    

What happens during Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a complicated neuro-degenerative motor disorder. It causes uncontrolled and unintentional movements due to low levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical messenger which plays an important role in coordination and movement. During the disease, nerve cells that control movement start to degenerate. The combined effect of dopamine reduction and nerve degeneration is what results in the form of Parkinson’s disease.

Almost, 1.5 million people in the U.S. have this disease currently and approximately 60,000 people are getting diagnosed yearly. The disease is general divided into five stages as follow;    

  • Stage 1: It is the initial stage where the patient has mild symptoms with no interference in everyday activities. Tremors occur on one side of the body with changes in posture, facial expression, and walking.
  • Stage 2: At this stage, symptoms start getting worse. Tremors start affecting both body sides along with difficulty in walking, poor posture, feelings of loneliness, and difficulty in doing daily tasks.
  • Stage 3: It is the mid-stage of the disease and causes slower movements, loss of balance, frequent falls, impaired dressing, and eating.
  • Stage 4: This stage has severe symptoms and is very limiting. The person depends on something or someone for even activities like walking. Someone has to be with the patient all the time to assist them with daily living.
  • Stage 5: This is the advanced and most damaging stage of the disease. Stiffness in the legs makes it impossible for the patient to stand or walk. The patient is mostly bedridden and may experience hallucinations.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

The exact cause of the disease is unknown but the factors that play an active role in the onset of the disease are;

  1. Genes
  2. Environmental triggers
  3. Exposure to toxins
  4. Presence of Lewy bodies   

Mutation in the genes is one of the biggest reasons why people suffer from Parkinson’s disease. The variation in the genetic makeup disturbs the production of hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine. Plus, it may silence nerve cells in the brain causing the disease to occur. However, these mutations are mostly expected among people with a family history of the disease. Toxins present in our environment may cause certain changes in the brain like the presence of Lewy bodies which can trigger the disease onset. Lewy bodies are clumps of specific substances in the brain and they serve as the microscopic markers of Parkinson’s disease. Besides, age is one of the biggest triggers for Parkinson’s disease. People who are 60+ start facing a decline in their brain activity which may cause the disease. 

Complications associated with the disease

Thinking difficulties, troubled focus, depression, and emotional changes, problems with swallowing, chewing, and eating, sleeping disorders, constipation, and bladder issues are some complications of the disease. The patient may also face changes in blood pressure, fatigue, pain, rigid muscles, sexual dysfunction, etc. during the disease.

Where to seek help from?

There are many reliable sources found to help patients with Parkinson’s disease. Here is a quick list of organizations offering resources, services, and support specifically for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

  1. Parkinson’s disease foundation: It has trained professionals that can provide you with the authentic and latest information about the disease. They can also refer you to quality healthcare providers, community resources, and emotional support. Their helpline is open throughout the working days. You can get their contact number from their website or email them at [email protected].
  2. Lotsa helping hands: This organization provides a free service for families and caregivers of Parkinson’s disease patients. Their community members serve people with meals, rides, childcare, and other daily activities.
  3. Parkinson’s action network: It is said to be the unified voice of the American Parkinson’s community which works for legislative issues of people suffering from the disease.
  4. PADRECC: It is Parkinson’s disease research, education, and clinical center. It offers care to people enrolled in the VA healthcare system including older adults diagnosed with Parkinson’s diseases and those who have just started observing the symptoms.
  5. Mayo Clinic: It is one of the most reliable practices in America and has a specialized staff to look after and treat people with Parkinson’s. Researchers at Neurologic surgery and neurology research are doing their most to bring quality research on the disease as well.     

Sources:

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease

https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/What-is-Parkinsons/Stages-of-Parkinsons

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/doctors-departments/ddc-20376064

https://www.parkinson.org/Living-with-Parkinsons/Resources-and-Support

https://www.bumc.bu.edu/len/pd/resources-for-patients-with-parkinsons-disease/