If your loved one has recently received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, you may be wondering where to turn, how to cope and what you need to do to become a good caregiver. In honor of National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, the team at Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola would like to let you know that you’re not alone, and we’re here to help.
“The weeks and months right after a loved one’s diagnosis of a progressive disease can be a time of questions and overwhelming concern,” shares Rob Low, Community Relations Director at Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola, a memory care assisted living community in Pensacola, Florida. “A difficult diagnosis of a disease like Parkinson’s can leave loved ones bewildered and at a loss for what to do first.
“To start to accept your loved one’s diagnosis and begin your caregiving journey, we suggest a combination of education and support. First, find people who will be valuable to you and your loved one as sources of support throughout their disease. You’ll both need people to lean on. Then, learn as much as you can about Parkinson’s disease. This is the best way to prepare yourself for what’s ahead.”
7 Tips for New Caregivers
Low’s advice resonates with that from The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. According to the Foundation and members of their community, new Parkinson’s caregivers can take several steps after their loved one’s diagnosis to prepare for the road ahead. These include:
- Join a Support Group – As Low mentioned, finding support is essential for coping with the challenges of Parkinson’s disease. Plenty of support groups exist for caregivers as well as those diagnosed. Whether you and your loved one join a support group together or separately, they can become important aspects of your care routine. Support groups offer safe environments in which to share your concerns and struggles and get advice and comfort from others who understand what you are going through.
- Gather a Team of Experts – Parkinson’s experts and caregivers suggest building a team of health professionals early on in your loved one’s disease. In addition to their primary care provider, you should search for specialists such as speech pathologists, physical therapists, movement disorder specialists and neurologists with specialization in Parkinson’s disease. Getting help from these professionals early on can help you and your loved one create a proactive care plan that tackles new challenges as they come.
- Become Organized – If organization hasn’t been your strong suit, that’s about to change! Caregivers claim that being organized is vital to managing the many tasks of caregiving. Consider having a calendar or planner dedicated specifically to your loved one, in which you can write down their medication schedules, doctor’s appointments, notes about their symptoms and more. If you’re caring for your loved one in your home, another way to organize and simplify tasks is to have their bills and prescriptions automated as much as possible.
- Be Prepared – Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, meaning that the symptoms your loved one experiences will change and worsen over time. However, not everyone with Parkinson’s experiences the exact same progression of symptoms. Prepare yourself for the possibilities that lie ahead by becoming educated about the disease. Plan ahead to meet the challenges before or as they emerge.
- Monitor Your Loved One’s Mental Health – Depression and anxiety can be symptoms of Parkinson’s disease as changes occur in the brain, but they can also be a natural response to a challenging disease. Keep a close eye on your loved one for any signs of depression, and talk to their doctor if you are concerned. Remember to be a positive partner in their care.
- Practice Self-Care – As a caregiver, you’re going to experience difficult emotions, stress, new challenges and hard days. To avoid burnout, remember to prioritize self-care. Keep yourself healthy by going to the doctor, exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep and taking some time for yourself. Try not to feel guilty about taking a break and doing something you enjoy. If you’re less stressed, you’ll be a better caregiver.
- Don’t Forget to Laugh – As serious as a Parkinson’s diagnosis is, keeping a healthy sense of humor can do wonders for you and your loved one. Don’t be afraid to laugh at something humorous. In fact, many find that laughter is one of the best ways to cope with the struggles of the disease. Of course, don’t make fun of your loved one or joke at their expense, but when silly things happen, enjoy them!
We’re Here for Support
“Accepting the role of caregiver can be difficult,” says Low, “but finding the right approach can make it easier. At Clarity Pointe™, we’re proud to offer resources and guidance to families caregivers as they navigate the new roles they play in their loved one’s disease.”
If you would like to learn more about caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s disease or how Clarity Pointe can help you and your family, contact us today for more information.
Clarity Pointe™ … Our Difference is Clear
Clarity Pointe™’s Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.
Opening in January 2018, Clarity Pointe Tallahassee is unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center. Clarity Pointe Tallahassee will offer four free-standing, purpose-built memory care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to memory care assisted living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.
We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in Alzheimer’s care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living and compassionate respectful care.
For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and meaningful.