Living with Parkinson's Disease Symptoms
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Updated August 15, 2014.
Parkinson's disease involves more than just tremor. Symptoms can affect several areas of a person's life. Fortunately, there are several ways to cope with these symptoms and stay independent and active.
As Parkinson's disease progresses, it can become more difficult to get around the house. In order to move around as freely as possible, ensure all low-lying obstacles such as throw rugs are removed from pathways in your home. Slow down if you feel you're in a hurry. Use caution when rising from bed or the bath-because Parkinson's disease can affect your autonomic nervous system. you may feel lightheaded and fall over unless you take your time.
Parkinson's disease is associated with REM sleep behavior disorder. which involves people acting out their dreams. If this is the case, ensure all breakable objects are removed from the bedside. Depression is common in Parkinson's disease, and can change sleep patterns as well. Both depression and REM sleep behavior disorder are treatable-talk to your doctor if you notice these symptoms. Learn more about sleep problems in Parkinson's disease .
About 50% of people with Parkinson's disease feel fatigued. This may be due to a combination of poor sleep, mood changes, or as a side effect of Parkinson's disease medications. Avoid alcohol or caffeine prior to going to bed, try to avoid napping, and ensure you go to bed and wake up at regular times every day.
Parkinson's disease can affect how well a person can swallow food. It may help to take small bites, or chop up the food thoroughly before eating. Don't rush, and always swallow one bite entirely before putting more food in your mouth. If you notice worsening problems swallowing, talk to your doctor about having your ability to swallow evaluated.
As Parkinson's disease worsens, it becomes more difficult to manipulate small clasps
and buttons. Use clothes that can be slipped on or that fasten easily. It can be helpful to dress while sitting down to improve your balance.
As Parkinson's disease advances, writing by hand becomes more difficult. The letters become smaller and more difficult to read. Using a larger body pen or pencil can help make handwriting easier. Try different types of pens-some will feel better than others. Sometimes, however, it may just be easier to type or use a dictaphone.
Parkinson's disease makes it more difficult to use the muscles of the face, including muscles used for speech. The voice becomes softer and less expressive, and stuttering becomes more common. To improve these problems, make an effort to speak clearly. It may help to exaggerate the movements of your lips as you speak. Don't let yourself slur words together. Make yourself heard.
One of the most frightening aspects of Parkinson's disease is when it begins to affect a person's ability to think like they used to. Parkinson's Disease Dementia is a loss of cognitive abilities distinct from other types of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. For example, people with Parkinson's Disease Dementia may be more aware of their problem than people with Alzheimer's disease. Despite these differences, many techniques for coping with Parkinson's Disease Dementia are similar to coping with Alzheimer's disease. Medications such as Exelon may be beneficial. To learn more about coping with dementia, read the following: Coping with Alzheimer's Disease.
Many other hints and tips on how to get by with Parkinson's disease symptoms are available through organizations such as the National Parkinson Foundation. Your physician can also refer you to specially trained physical therapists for further training in coping with your symptoms. Don't hesitate to mention problems and seek out help.
Ropper AH, Samuels MA. Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology, 9th ed: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2009.
McCabe MP, O'Connor EJ. “Why are some people with neurological illness more resilient than others?” Psychol Health Med. 2011 May 17:1-18.