Over the last thirty years, I have had the privilege of meeting many people with Parkinson’s. There has seemed to be a common theme. Self-sufficiency. As the disease progresses, independence tends to decline. But that doesn’t mean that people lose the need to demonstrate what they can do for themselves.
Sometimes, individuals appear to be about to fall, or not be able to stand, or just simply seem very slow. However, people are still people whether they have Parkinson’s or not. Respecting their total needs, sometimes means allowing extra time. Other times, it may mean simply watching and letting them try to take care themselves. It always means listening.
The Need to Take Parkinson's Awareness Day Seriously
Healthcare providers who think they know and understand what a person with Parkinson’s endures on a daily basis, need to take Parkinson’s Awareness Day seriously. When you approach someone with Parkinson’s, don’t assume you know what symptoms they have. Symptoms vary greatly from one individual to the next.
Their masked expression is a frequent symptom. Just because their facial muscles don’t express emotions, doesn’t mean they don’t feel. If they can’t speak fluently or loudly, that, too, demonstrates typical symptoms of Parkinson’s not to mention common frustrations. It doesn’t mean they are unaware of their needs.
One of the most prevalent symptoms of Parkinson’s may simply be slowness; bradykinesia is the medical term. Slowness can be so prevalent that it takes someone four to five times longer to simply put on their coat. But the assessment to make note of is not the slowness. It is their ability to perform self-care. However long it takes to be independent, self-sufficiency should be rewarded not discouraged.
I have reminded many nurses, there is nothing wrong with slowness. Independence is a reward in itself. In other words, if someone takes a long time to take care of themselves, then support their ability to do so.
Remember to accept that an individual with Parkinson’s is still a person.
As we consider many aspects of Parkinson’s disease, e.g. research, medications, physical therapy, etc., we need to be sure not look past the individual themselves. The achievements they accomplish each day, sometimes each hour, are to be realized and rewarded.
Nursing implications for meeting the needs of a patient with Parkinson’s means never overlook the whole person, do not just focus on the disease.
This course is designed for healthcare professionals who provide care for patients with Parkinson's disease. Current trends in rehabilitation and maintenance as well as practice guidelines will be presented. Limited offer: 115 CEUs for only $19.95! View course here.