Five Tips for Parkinson's Disease Caregivers
Posted: 4/1/2022 2:10 PM by
If your loved one has just received a Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis, chances are you feel overwhelmed, scared, sad, or a myriad of other emotions. Once you’ve had a moment to catch your breath, the best way to move forward is to learn about the things you can control when it comes to caring for your loved one. And we believe these five tips are a great place to start.
Tip 1: Put your oxygen mask on first
If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you know that flight attendants always mention this in their pre-flight safety speech. If the oxygen masks drop, you should always put yours on first.
How does this relate to caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s Disease? In order to care for your loved one as best as you can, you have to take care of yourself first.
Taking the time to care for yourself might include scheduling backup care for your loved one while you get a massage, or taking a quick trip alone to the grocery store.
Sometimes you may need to remove yourself from a stressful situation so you can just breathe for a few minutes. There are many free apps and even YouTube videos that provide guided meditations–some are as short as one minute and others as long as an hour.
Tip 2: Seek support from other Parkinson's caregivers
One way to cope with a life-changing diagnosis is simply to remember that you are not alone. If you feel up to it, reach out to other Parkinson’s caregivers via local support groups. Experienced caregivers will likely be more than willing to provide a listening ear and support when you need it most.
If meeting in person at a support group doesn’t sound like something that works for you, do a quick search online for resources or on Facebook for Parkinson’s caregiver Facebook groups. Facebook has a plethora of group options, and most likely there is a group tailored for your exact situation.
If group support isn’t enough, reach out to a counselor or therapist to begin one-on-one therapy. They can provide many tools and coping strategies to help make your caregiving journey a little easier.
Tip 3: Create a safe space for your loved one
As a caregiver, it’s important to make all the accommodations you can to keep your loved one safe.
You can start by evaluating the space where your loved one is spending their time. Do you need to move floor coverings so they’re not a fall hazard? Could your loved one benefit from increasing lighting in low-lit areas, or the re-arranging of furniture to create a more conducive layout?
You may need to make modifications to the bathrooms and the kitchen to make it more accessible for your loved one. If your loved one begins to struggle with activities of daily living, ask their doctor if they could benefit from having a licensed occupational therapist visit their home to show them how to make changes that could create a safer environment that is easier for them to navigate.
Utilize assistive devices that can help simplify activities of daily living
Parkinson’s disease can take what used to be a fairly easy task and turn it into something extremely cumbersome. Talk with your loved one’s doctor or occupational therapist about assistive devices that are available through your local durable medical equipment (DME) companies.
There are many device options that can be helpful in assisting with common scenarios that Parkinson’s patients deal with, and in some cases, these devices can even be purchased at little cost from a local drug store.
Some assistive devices you may find beneficial include the following:
Elevated shower seat
Learn more about these assistive devices and other helpful information from the National Parkinson Foundation.
Tip 4: Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s disease
In what seems like an uncontrollable situation, arming yourself with knowledge about your loved one’s condition can be empowering. Take advantage of any educational materials given to you at the time of diagnosis, and always ask questions if you need clarification on something.
Much like your loved one, their journey with Parkinson’s Disease will be unique, as well. The more you know about the behaviors or symptoms they are experiencing, the better equipped you’ll be to care for them.
Tip 5: Give yourself grace
Remember, you don’t have to tackle all of these tips at once. Take it slow day by day, and even minute by minute if needed. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself that your loved one is so lucky to have you by their side!