Meditation & Health #21- Living Well With Parkinson’s Disease
Living Well With Parkinson’s Disease
By Chu Yun & Juliana Sun
“The first thing I read after being diagnosed… was Parkinson’s attacks the mind, body and spirit. There is one thing that treats all three and that’s hope. That’s very true, you have to live with hope.”— Gordon Adair
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, long-term, degenerative neurological disorder. It develops when nerve cells in the brain do not produce enough of a brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine helps cells in the brain carry signals to one another. With decreases of the chemical, the cells have trouble relaying communication, affecting a person’s body movements.
The main symptoms include tremors, muscle rigidity, slow movement, and problems with balance and walking. In the later stages of the disease, a person with Parkinson’s may have a blank or fixed expression, as well as trouble speaking and a loss of mental skills (dementia). There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease at present, but there are several types of medications that may control the symptoms.
Make Daily Life Easier
Parkinson’s disease affects approximately one percent of individuals older than 60 years, and men more often than women. Finding out you have this progressive disease inevitably triggers overwhelming feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and hopelessness. Steps can be taken to improve daily quality of life and help patients feel empowered.
Choose clothing without button closures as most patients have problems with finger dexterity. Select items with Velcro-type closures and elastic waistbands instead. Wear clothes that are loose-fitting, can be pulled over the head, or can be stepped into easily.
Arrange your furniture in such a way that you can hold on to something as you move around the house. Free up walking space at home by positioning furniture against the wall and removing obstacles from the floor such as shoes, electrical cables and throw rugs.
Keep oft-used items such as your mobile phone, reading glasses, and keys together and in an easy-to-reach place. Always make sure your house is well-lit.
Injury-proof your bathrooms by installing grab bars, handrails, non-slip bathmats, and raised toilet seats.
Wear your Parkinson’s disease medical wristband or tag, and put your medical identification card in your wallet. Alternatively, wear a pendant or wristband with a GPS medical alert system to connect you with an emergency response center in the event
you are injured while alone or in some sort of danger.
Healthy, Balanced Diet
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, wild-caught fish, lean meats, healthy fats, and organic dairy products. Drink organic green tea, which contains free radical-fighting polyphenol antioxidants and theanine, an amino acid that boosts dopamine in the brain. Avoid processed foods, sugar and artificial sweeteners. Be sure to ingest high amounts of vitamins C, D and E, omega-3, and the antioxidant coenzyme Q10.
A diet of soft or chopped foods, or thickened liquids, may be introduced when patients develop difficulty chewing or swallowing. Drooling means the swallowing reflex is weak. It may be necessary to purée foods to ease swallowing. At this stage, a caregiver should be present during all meals.
Constipation is perhaps the most common gastrointestinal symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Warm liquids, especially in the morning, can stimulate bowel movements. Ensure a high intake of fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains each day. These high-fiber foods can aid in reducing discomfort. Stay hydrated by drinking purified water throughout the day. Exercise daily to increase the movement of intestinal muscles.
As a Caregiver
The love and support of a dedicated caregiver is essential to the patient’s physical and mental quality of life. Part of this support is allowing your loved one to be as independent as possible. Give them time to complete a daily activity on their own. The role becomes challenging as the disease progresses. Thus, it is necessary to educate yourself about the symptoms and treatments to deal with changes.