While the outward face of Parkinson’s disease is limited movement as a result of stiff muscles and tremors, many patients experience a spectrum of cognitive problems ranging from confusion and anxiety to dementia and depression. When facing these behaviors, consistency and routine are vital in keeping your aging loved one grounded in their surroundings, compliant in daily care, and engaged in therapy activities.
As a leading provider of Parkinson’s home care in Palm Beach County, we wanted to share a typical day in the life of a Parkinson’s caregiver. This outline can help inexperienced family caregivers with what to expect, helping them to provide the proper level of care at home.
Caregivers should take the time to carefully assess the senior’s abilities upon waking up. Because some days are more difficult than others, seeing how much help is needed with daily activities such as teeth and hair brushing, bathing and dressing can be a good indication of how the day will progress. If movements are difficult, the day’s activities should be modified to reflect these indicators.
A morning routine also includes breakfast which is important for seniors with Parkinson’s, giving them energy to continue with the day’s activities. In later stages of the disease, control over the throat and mouth muscles can make swallowing difficult. Start with small portions and if these are too difficult to digest, consider pureeing the items or opting for a breakfast smoothie.
When possible, physical exercise follows breakfast. Elderly Parkinson’s patients often experience sleep (circadian) dysfunction, which in turn aggravates mood disorders and cognitive thinking. In addition to the physical benefits of exercise, scheduling activity early in the day boosts mood and energy through the afternoon, while reinforcing the “active” phase of the circadian rhythm. For assistance with what exercises would be best, caregivers should speak with their loved one’s primary care physician, physical therapist or Palm Beach County senior care provider.
Post-lunch activities should include household chores. When a family caregiver includes their aging loved one in folding laundry, rinsing dishes, sweeping, and other daily activities, they help support a sense of self-sufficiency and independence. This is of the utmost importance for Parkinson’s patients who often feel as if they are losing control as the disease progresses. Completing these tasks can also signal an end to the most active part of the day.
The evening should be a time of gradual relaxing, allowing time for mental exercises like puzzles, mazes, or cards that activate the brain as well as fine motor control. Depending on function and medications, special consideration for dinner may be necessary. As protein and iron interfere with the absorption of levodopa (a common Parkinson’s medication), meals heavy in these ingredients should be saved for the evening after the majority of dosing has already been administered.
A caregiver cannot expect to keep a schedule that dictates the hour of each activity, but should strive to keep the order consistent. Play around with what works best for you and your loved one, then stick to it as best you can. Also understand that developing your routine will take patience and dedication. However, with an appreciation for small triumphs, the typical day can be a series of victories for both patient and caregiver.
If you are new to caregiving and need assistance with your care responsibilities, reach out to a Home Care Assistance Care Manager to schedule a complimentary, in-home consultation. We offer hourly care in Palm Beach County, as well as overnight and 24 hour monitoring to ensure the safety of our clients and provide their families with respite and peace of mind. Simply dial 561-429-8292 and find out how our devoted care management team is helping families throughout Florida.