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(StatePoint) Headed home for the holidays? For families contending with Parkinson’s disease (PD), the arrival of loved ones can provide a source of much-needed support.
This may be particularly true for primary caregivers, who are often overwhelmed with the day-to-day demands of caring for someone with PD. These caregivers may need support ranging from a day’s break from their caregiving duties to a sounding board for their biggest concerns.
While no two caregivers’ needs are the same, here are three ways to offer support.
1. Listen, listen, listen.
Caregivers may voice concerns about their loved one’s condition, or they may talk about how caregiving is impacting them personally. In many cases, these two topics are directly related. For example, more than half of all people with Parkinson’s will experience hallucinations and delusions over the course of their disease. These symptoms might include seeing things that aren’t real, such as insects, animals or children, or believing things that aren’t true, such as spousal infidelity.
Research has shown that the presence of hallucinations and delusions is associated with increased stress and depression among caregivers, and is one of the leading causes of nursing home placement among patients with Parkinson’s.
2. Encourage conversations with physicians.
Caregivers and people with Parkinson’s should be encouraged to share any and all new or unusual symptoms with their health care provider, even if they aren’t sure if the symptoms are related to PD. For example, only a fraction of people with hallucinations and delusions related to Parkinson’s disease discuss their symptoms with their physician.
This may be because of embarrassment, fear, or lack of awareness that these symptoms can be a part of Parkinson’s. To learn more about this condition and download resources to help in starting these conversations, visit MoretoParkinsons.com.
3. Get help and give help.
During the holiday season, caregivers may feel pulled in opposing directions as they try to fulfill festive obligations while caring for their loved one. Finding balance between work, family and caregiving is essential to the good health of the caregiver.
“When my husband, who has Parkinson’s disease, began seeing treasures in the backyard when all we saw was dirt and rocks, I reached out to family and friends (near and far) for emotional support. The holidays can feel particularly hectic, and knowing I could reach out to hear a kind voice or ask my kids to lend a hand around the house, helped me greatly,” says Kathie Wells, a caregiver from Forney, Texas. “I also asked my husband’s doctor for help with his hallucinations and delusions. He helped me understand his symptoms and identify a treatment strategy. My advice to anyone dealing with Parkinson’s is to ask for help (in person or online) so you have the energy to advocate for your loved one.”
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