With advanced age comes increasing risks of developing myriad health issues, including arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes. Seniors are also at increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Because the individual symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can mimic other health conditions (and are often brushed aside as “just old age”), it’s important to be familiar with the cumulative symptoms of this disease so you’ll know what to watch for in your aging loved ones. The sooner Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed and treatment begins, the less debilitating the disease will be.
Unfortunately, diagnosing Parkinson’s disease is unusually challenging for physicians. There is not one particular test or screening that will definitively tell whether someone has this disease. Instead, doctors use a variety of tests to rule other illnesses out and conclude if Parkinson’s disease is or isn’t the cause of the symptoms. Before a doctor will begin investigating a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, two of the four main symptoms of the disease must be present in a patient over and extended period of time.
- The most noticeable symptom of Parkinson’s disease is a slight shaking of the body while at rest. Usually this affects the fingers, hand, or face.
- Slowness of movement.
- Stiffness and rigidity. For example, difficulty lifting the feet to walk, and arms that remain firmly by the sides, rather than swinging naturally, while walking.
- Difficulty maintaining balance and, as a result, falling or almost falling.
In addition to these four primary symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, other common symptoms include:
- Stooped posture (slouching, leaning, and not standing up straight)
- Startling awake or being unusually active during sleep
- Handwriting that has suddenly become more difficult to read, noticeably smaller, and crowded together
- Changing in speaking voice, especially speech that is significantly softer or that sounds raspy and hoarse
- Diminished sense of smell
- Emotionless, angry, mask-like facial expression
Again, many of these symptoms on their own can be attributed to normal age-related changes, changes in habits, injuries, or side effects of medication. When you’re caring for an aging loved one, especially someone who has experienced cognitive decline or is physically disabled, you may be so focused on daily tasks of living that you fail to recognize new or unusual symptoms that should be evaluated by a doctor.
There are many benefits of enlisting help from a caring, professional caregiver. One of the most important benefits is that a licensed caregiver is trained to identify subtle physical and behavioral changes. If you’re taking care of a senior loved one and are feeling a bit overwhelmed, our compassionate caregivers at Angel Companions can help.