What is Parkinson’s Disease?

May 30, 2018
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a disease of the nervous system. It is a progressive condition, which means it gets worse over time. PD may start with slight symptoms like a hand tremor or slowed movements. As the disease progresses, it affects speech, movement, and emotions. When a doctor suggests that your parent may have PD and recommends further testing, the news can be frightening. Understanding what to expect during diagnosis can help you to be prepared.

The Main Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

A number of things go into determining if someone has Parkinson’s, but one thing doctors look at is your parent’s symptoms. The four main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are:

  1. Slowed movements (bradykinesia)
  2. Tremors
  3. Rigidity of the trunk, arms, or legs
  4. Problems with balance

At least two of the main symptoms must be present over time in order for a neurologist to diagnose your parent with PD.

For more information about the early warning signs of Parkinson’s disease, check out our blog: 5 Early Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

How Doctors Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease

There is no one specific test that doctors use to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Instead, diagnosing the disease is a combination of examinations and tests. Some of the tests will be used to rule out other diseases that have symptoms similar to those of PD. A neurologist, a doctor who specializes in the nervous system, will determine if your parent has PD. The information the neurologist will use to make a determination includes:

  • Your parent’s medical history
  • Physical examination
  • PET scan or DAT scan
  • Neurological exams that involve your parent performing functions so that the doctor can observe the agility of your parent’s limbs
  • Observing the response of your parent’s PD symptoms to certain medications

Diagnosing PD may involve several appointments since the doctor must observe your parent’s symptoms over time to make a clear diagnosis. One of the tools the neurologist may use during the diagnosis process is called the United Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS). The doctor will record information about your parent’s condition during the examination process. The UPDRS is then used later to compare how your parent’s condition has changed.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care Services

If your parent is diagnosed with PD, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about the disease. Doing so will allow you to prepare for future care. You may wish to contact the National Parkinson’s Foundation (parkinson.org or 800-4PD-INFO) for more information about the disease and help that may be available to your parent.

You should also begin talking to your parent about their wishes concerning care. Often families find that hiring a senior homecare provider to take care of a parent with PD in their home alleviates some of the stress on family caregivers. A senior home care provider can be hired through an agency to come to your parent’s home for just a few hours per day, for an entire day, or for overnight stays depending on your parent’s needs. They can help your parent with tasks that may become difficult due to PD, such as dressing, bathing, grooming, cooking, eating, and light house cleaning.

If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring homecare services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids today. (888) 592-5855