Answers to key questions on Parkinson’s Disease at end-of-life
When is it the right time to seek out hospice care for a loved one suffering from Parkinson’s?
In true Parkinson's disease, a person becomes slow and stiff, has notable tremors at rest, and eventually has memory impairment. In the early and mid-stages, medications and some special devices can help control these symptoms. But, eventually people affected by Parkinson's begin to fall more and more frequently and eventually stop working altogether despite treatments. When patients reach this point, one should consider treatment under hospice.
What are some issues that are unique to working with patients with Parkinson’s?
The issues facing Parkinson's patients are not so much unique as difficult to manage. Probably the biggest burden for caregivers and the most dangerous symptom for patients is the frequent falls. We've seen many Parkinson's patients fall because they refuse to admit they are no longer able to get up and walk without assistance. And as with any falling, serious injuries can occur, such as broken hips or concussions from which these patients may never recover.
Other challenges include Parkinson's dementia and swallowing problems.
What is the biggest lifestyle change that needs to be made when dealing with a patient with Parkinson’s?
Convincing Parkinson's of their need for assistance with getting around is often the biggest challenge concerning lifestyle alterations.
What is the most beneficial aspect of hospice care for patients that suffer from Parkinson’s?
The added support, equipment, and comfort that hospice care brings to both Parkinson's patients and their overstressed caregivers is the biggest benefit.
What should families know about caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s?
There are support groups and other resources out there that can help such as the St. Louis chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association. Many people are affected by this crippling disease and caregivers often need assistance in dealing with its many challenges.