Parkinson’s develops differently in each patient. Some deteriorate to the end stage of Parkinson’s rapidly, while others remain strong and active for years, and there’s no clear explanation for why.
While exercise and physical therapy can slow disease progression, there’s no known cure. Even the healthiest patients will eventually decline until the end stage of Parkinson’s, when they are left completely dependent on family and caretakers.
For those with loved ones who’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it helps to know the road ahead. An awareness of what’s to come makes it easier to offer help as conditions decline, and ask for help when they become too much to manage alone.
While there may be no cure, Parkinson’s follows a predictable path. In the early stages, symptoms are mild and inconvenient; by the end stages, symptoms are incapacitating.
Parkinson’s affects more than balance and motor skills. As it progresses, nearly every other part of the body deteriorates as well.
Throughout the course of the disease, patients may experience:
Some of these symptoms can be treated with diet, exercise, and medication. These can prolong patients’ quality of life for a time, but may not be effective in the end stages of Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s damages the brain and over time this can lead to changes in behavior. They appear early in some patients, late in others. Not all patients experience the same symptoms; they are also not always debilitating when they initially appear.
The most common mental issues seen in Parkinson’s patients include:
In certain cases, brain damage becomes so severe the patient slides into dementia. Patients may become hostile, suspicious, or even abusive. If the prefrontal cortex (which controls inhibitions) has been impaired, they might make sexually suggestive comments or remove their clothes in mixed company.
Patients are particularly prone to acting out during the end stages of Parkinson’s. When it happens, the best strategy is to remain calm and redirect their attention.
Here are a few simple, but effective strategies to employ when faced with understandably uncomfortable scenarios:
As Parkinson’s worsens, it becomes increasingly challenging for families to provide care without professional assistance. Families may also consider residential care options to ensure that patients receive the kind of round-the-clock care they now require.
Due to the degenerative nature of the disease, patients in the end stage of Parkinson’s are at severe risk of:
To avoid serious complications, patients require 24-hour assistance.
Providing this level of care is usually too much for a family to bear. Even Home Care providers are limited in terms of how many hours they can devote to patients, making residential care a family’s best option.
At Verona Court, Parentis Health’s residential facilities, there are multiple skilled nurses and caregivers onsite at all times, ready to help patients whenever, however needed.
Even though the course of Parkinson’s is predictable, the end stage of Parkinson’s is not. Despite its severity, people don’t pass on from Parkinson’s; rather, the disease leaves patients vulnerable to injury or infection which, in their weakened conditions, often proves to be fatal.
Consequently, knowing when to call hospice is not a simple matter of tracking symptoms. Physicians should always be consulted if patients are experiencing:
Once a doctor has given the patient a six-month prognosis, a hospice team can be called in. Patients can receive hospice wherever they call home—residential care facilities, retirement communities or wherever they’ve been residing.
Hospice serves both patients and families alike. It also gives patients a chance to spend their final weeks or months free from pain, while lifting a huge burden from families.
Hospice teams provide comfort care to patients. Comfort care provides relief from pain, nausea, and shortness of breath. Working closely with the patient’s doctor, the hospice team creates a personal care plan to manage symptoms. Nurses check in regularly to adjust pain medication. Home Health aides tend to the patient’s hygiene. Case managers secure high-grade equipment, such as hospital beds or oxygen machines.
Counselors are on-hand as well, providing emotional and spiritual support to patients and families. Their presence is particularly helpful for families, providing support as they process their emotions and make peace with their loved one before they pass on.
At Parentis Health, hospice counseling continues on after patients pass, helping families further, culminating in an annual Celebration of Life ceremony to honor loved ones lost.