Parkinson’s disease is a neurological condition that primarily causes physical symptoms, such as trouble walking or maintaining balance or trouble with chewing and swallowing. However, many people develop mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and eventually dementia; both lead to memory loss, among other cognitive problems.
A person likely won’t need any special care immediately after they begin developing Parkinson’s. But as the disease progresses, eventually, memory care or respite care could become necessary services.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
Age is one of the most significant risk factors in developing Parkinson’s Disease. Adults over 50 most commonly develop the disease, but younger adults can still develop it. This is typically called early-onset Parkinson’s.
Experts still don’t know exactly what triggers the disease. But they have discovered that its cause is decreased dopamine production in the brain. This leads to a lack of muscle coordination leading to the common symptoms of Parkinson’s.
These physical symptoms, such as tremors, trouble with coordination and balance, or trouble walking, are typically the first things to make daily life difficult. But eventually, Parkinson’s affects movement and cognitive function, such as memory loss or dementia.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Parkinson’s. But some medications and therapies have shown some success in slowing the progression and relieving symptoms.
With a lack of dopamine being the primary culprit for Parkinson’s symptoms, doctors have a good starting place for treatment. They can use medications that help replace the dopamine in the brain, such as levodopa. Dopamine agonists may also be used as a substitute for dopamine. Ultimately, a senior’s doctor will recommend the best course of medication.
For older adults who are resistant to medication, deep brain stimulation may be an option. This is a neurosurgical option where a surgeon implants small electrodes in key areas of the brain. These electrodes are attached to a pulse generator that puts out mild electrical stimulation.
Progression of Parkinson’s Disease
Like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease. Five general stages describe its progression. It’s important to note that this progression will vary between individuals. For some, it could develop over the span of 20 years, whereas for others, it could develop much more quickly.
During stage 1 of Parkinson’s, symptoms are typically very mild. Family and close friends may notice subtle changes in an individual’s posture or facial expressions. But the changes are unlikely to affect a person’s daily life.
If the disease is caught during this stage, tremors could be one of the most troublesome symptoms. Fortunately, there are medication options that can effectively reduce the effects of the symptoms.
The minor changes in muscle stiffness that an older adult notices during stage 1 of the disease will get more pronounced as it progresses into stage 2. During this stage, many people will find that tasks become more difficult and take longer, but their balance is still usually decent.
Although an individual will notice pronounced symptoms during stage 2 of Parkinson’s progression, many can still live alone or in an independent senior community.
Stage 3 is considered by many to be the tipping point in Parkinson’s progression. Symptoms will be much the same as in stage 2. However, most individuals will begin having trouble with their balance and reflexes at this point.
An older adult may still be able to function independently at this point, but their daily lives will start changing. A combination of medication and physical therapy may be beneficial during this stage.
A drastic reduction in reaction time and independent movement may make living alone nearly impossible for some seniors in stage 4 of Parkinson’s progression. Not only do everyday tasks become difficult for most seniors during this stage, but many of them can also become dangerous.
The final stage of Parkinson’s presents the most advanced symptoms. Most seniors require a wheelchair at this point because they cannot safely stand or walk unassisted. 24/7 care is typically required at this point to help with daily activities and to prevent injury from falls.
During stage 5—sometimes starting at stage 4—of Parkinson’s, up to 50% of adults can experience hallucinations, delusions, and confusion. And up to 80% of seniors with Parkinson’s also develop Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD), which is characterized by trouble with focus, memory, and making sound judgments.
Parkinson’s & Memory
Tremors, trouble walking, and trouble talking are all common things that many people relate to Parkinson’s and how it affects us. However, it’s important to note that during stage 4 and 5 of this disease’s progression, MCI isn’t uncommon.
And if an individual develops PDD—as many older adults with Parkinson’s do—they will likely experience the memory-related symptoms that come along with it. The profound memory loss a person may experience can make maintaining relationships difficult.
A diagnosis of Parkinson’s and PDD can be disheartening. Fortunately, many memory care communities will offer professional caregiver services to allow for an independent life as possible for their residents—even with the complications of several conditions.
Finding Community Support for Retirement
Deciding on a retirement community for your loved one or where they will receive temporary care isn’t a decision to take lightly. It’s important to find a community with a team that is trained to deal with the specific challenges that can come with a disease like Parkinson’s or dementia.If you’re looking for a boutique memory care community that you can count on, give our team a call at Fox Trail Memory Care. We’re happy to answer your questions and set you up with a community visit.