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10 Ways to Support a Loved One That Has Parkinson's Disease

Author
Alicia Betz
November 13, 2023

Living with any chronic illness takes a toll physically, mentally, and emotionally. Your loved one who is living with Parkinson’s disease is fighting a daily battle, and the toll it takes on them can be great. 

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They may struggle to eat, sleep, use the bathroom, and perform other activities of daily living. Losing this independence can be very difficult emotionally for your loved one. They may even develop depression or anxiety. 

When supporting your loved one with Parkinson’s disease, you need to support the whole person. The degree of support needed may vary from day to day, but the important thing is that you are consistently there for them. 

Here are some ways you can support a loved one that has Parkinson’s disease: 

1. Get Organized

Your loved one probably has a lot of doctor’s appointments and medications to keep track of. Parkinson’s can affect memory, and up to 80% of people with Parkinson’s disease develop dementia. Keep their appointments, medications, and other necessities organized so they don’t miss any important appointments or medication dosages. This also helps reduce their stress because it’s one less thing they need to try to remember. Stress has been found to worsen Parkinson’s symptoms, so the more you can help reduce their stress, the better. 

Organization can come in handy when it comes to insurance as well. Their medical bills might start to pile up, and you may need to become friendly with the insurance company. You can also help by checking in advance to make sure costly procedures and medications are covered. 

2. Become Educated 

Nurse helping elderly man on wheelchair

Learn everything you can about Parkinson’s disease. The more you understand the disease, the better you’ll be able to help them. It’s also a good idea to learn about the later stages of the disease so you know what to expect as your loved one’s symptoms progress. Keep in mind that they might not want to know every detail about their future symptoms, but when you know what to expect, it can help you stay calm and know how to help when new symptoms develop. 

Becoming educated can also help you be an advocate for them if you attend doctor’s appointments. If you’re noticing new symptoms in your loved one, ask the doctor for ways the symptoms can be managed. The best practices would be to make small notes on your phone or in a notebook so that a regular catalog of events can be kept and you can tell when specific symptoms began or worsened.

3. Offer To Do Chores

Simple tasks like getting dressed or pouring a glass of water become difficult with Parkinson’s symptoms. How much harder, then, it becomes for someone with Parkinson’s to keep the house clean, shop for groceries, or fold the laundry. As much as you can, offer to help out with chores.

They may not want to admit that they need the help, so try to help out while allowing them to keep their dignity. It’s important, too, to help your loved ones keep as much of their independence as possible. Assist them in completing whatever chores they enjoy and are still able to do. Ask them what they would like help with or step in when you see they are struggling. 

4. Help Them Find Support

Having a chronic disease can feel incredibly isolating. It can be helpful for them to find people who are going through the same thing. Support groups, whether online or in-person may help them feel less alone. Talking to others with the same disease might also help them find new ways to manage their symptoms. 

If there is a local support group that meets in your area, consider attending a meeting with them. They may be more likely to attend if they don’t have to go alone. Additionally, if they have a moral or spiritual need, try to find accessible options to meet those needs. If they cannot go to a physical service, consider finding a service online or on tv.

5. Be a Friend

Once your loved one is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, their life can become dominated by the disease. Treat them as a person first, and try to leave the disease out of the conversation sometimes. Remember that they are a person, not a disease. 

Go to the movies, play a board game, go for a drive, and get ice cream. Encourage them to do things they enjoy. This can help improve their quality of life and lower their stress. 

You can also encourage others to call and visit with your loved ones. They may be reluctant to socialize or to reach out to others if they’re feeling lonely; you can help facilitate those friendships. 

6. Don’t Be Their Nurse

Yes, you can help them manage their symptoms and advocate for them at doctor’s appointments, but don’t cross the line into being a nurse. This can damage your relationship, and it can make it hard for your loved one to find an escape from the disease. 

If it’s time to bring in extra support in the form of a home health nurse, have a conversation with your loved one about what that extra support will look like. It is important to remember that as much as you may want to help, the best way you can help is by drawing clear boundaries between helping as a friend or loved one, and becoming an amateur nurse. Most times, what your loved one really needs is companionship and attention, not constant medical evaluation.

7. Take a Break

No matter how much you love your loved one, it’s important to take a break for your own mental health. Constantly caring for someone can take its toll. The more you’re able to take breaks, the better you’ll be able to care for your loved one as well. 

8. Keep Them Active 

walking with old man

It’s very important for people with Parkinson’s to stay active. Regular physical activity can help reduce some of the negative symptoms of Parkinson’s, including depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and constipation. Physical activity can also improve their cognitive function and overall quality of life. 

The activity doesn’t need to be strenuous but should be something they enjoy doing. Consider going for walks, taking a fun fitness class, or going for a light hike. Just be sure to do activities that your loved one can participate in safely. For example, if they’re having a lot of trouble with balance, going for a bike ride might not be the best idea. 

9. Be Understanding and Flexible

Parkinson's’ can be unpredictable, and navigating the disease can feel like you’re on a roller coaster ride sometimes. There might be days when you have something fun planned but your loved one isn’t feeling up to it. Try to understand and take the change of plans in stride. 

Remember that as hard as this is for you, it’s much harder for your loved one. Try to give them as much grace as possible, and know that the disease can ebb and flow. 

10. Look After Their Mental Health

It is very common for people with Parkinson’s disease to develop depression and anxiety. Watch for symptoms to develop, and encourage your loved one to seek help. This may be in the form of medication or therapy.

You can also help their mental health by helping them stay active, getting them connected with support groups, and simply being there for them. Helping them maintain their mental health is of utmost importance, and good mental health can decrease the negative impact of their other symptoms.

What to do if You or a Loved One Developed Parkinson’s

In most cases, there is very little that can be done to predict whether someone will develop Parkinson’s Disease. However, there are some circumstances and events that have been linked or associated with an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s. If you or a loved one have developed Parkinson’s after working with the herbicide Paraquat, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

At Select Justice, our team partners with experienced, compassionate attorneys to get you the best outcome for your case. Our partners work on a contingency system that means if you don’t win, you don’t pay. Contact Select Justice today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation and begin your journey to justice.

Free Case Evaluation

If you believe that you or a loved one were harmed by Paraquat exposure, you may be entitled to compensation.

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We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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