Whether you or your close family member has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, you are sure to have thousands of questions buzzing around your head. That is entirely normal, and you will most likely have more questions once the news has set in.
We have been caring for people who have Parkinson’s for years, and have answered hundreds if not thousands of questions throughout that time. We have responded to some questions you may be asking following a diagnosis.
Parkinson’s disease frequently asked questions
- What are the early signs of Parkinson’s?
If you or your loved one has already received a diagnosis, the chances are that symptoms are already presenting themselves. However, there are a range of early symptoms, some you may have already noticed, others that may be present and some that haven’t presented themselves. These include:
- Stooping, hunching, leaning or slouching when you stand
- Pain or stiffness in your shoulder or hips
- Slight shaking or tremors in your thumb, finger, chin or hand
- Facial masking where you appear more depressed, mad or serious than you are feeling
- Lessened sense of smell for foods like dill pickles, bananas or liquorice
- Change in voice – lower, softer or horse
- Handwriting that has become much smaller or more crowded than previously
- Difficulty moving your bowels
- Sudden movements when sleeping, including thrashing around
- Feeling dizzy or fainting regularly
Any of these could be caused by something else, but if all else is well and more than one of these symptoms are present, they are likely connected to your Parkinson’s diagnosis.
2. Is Parkinson’s hereditary?
If you are the one diagnosed, you may be concerned about passing the gene onto your children. Similarly, perhaps a parent has Parkinson’s, and you are worried about your susceptibility.
While it is rare for the disease to be inherited, the condition can run in families. There are genetic factors that increase the chances of developing Parkinson’s; however, it is currently unclear how these genes increase susceptibility.
3. What are the Parkinson’s disease stages?
Parkinson symptoms will differ from person to person, so different patterns have been grouped into five stages to allow doctors to measure the progression of the condition.
- Stage one: You or your loved one will experience mild symptoms that won’t interfere with your daily life. The symptoms are generally only present on one side of the body.
- Stage two: Symptoms will now present themselves on both sides of the body and will worsen. There may be issues with walking or posture, and daily tasks may take more time and become more difficult.
- Stage three: At this point, movement will typically slow, and there may be a loss of balance. While you or your loved one will still be fully independent, falls will be more common and you may struggle with activities such as eating and dressing.
- Stage four: Symptoms are considered to be severe and limiting at this stage. Assistive devices such as a walker may be required. People in stage four are usually unable to live independently alone.
- Stage five: This is the final stage of the scale, where there may be difficulties standing or walking. Care will be required round-the-clock and delusions and hallucinations may present themselves.
4. What is the life expectancy for a person with Parkinson’s disease?
Because the impact of Parkinson’s is so varied, this is a difficult question to answer. However, it is considered to be a slowly progressive disorder, so the difference in lifespan may be only slightly shorter than a person without a diagnosis.
People usually start to develop symptoms around the sixty-year mark, and many live with the condition for ten to twenty years following diagnosis. Other factors will play a role, such as general health. This is a question your doctor may be able to give you a more accurate answer to.
5. Does Parkinson’s affect memory?
Both thinking and memory can be impacted by Parkinson’s. Cognitive symptoms are considered to be common with this condition; however, they will not affect everybody. Some of the cognitive difficulties associated with Parkinson’s include:
- Problem-solving and multitasking
- Concentration or attention
- Visuospatial skills (judging the distance between two cars, for example)
However, some will experience more severe memory problems, which is often diagnosed as dementia. This tends to occur after many years or even decades of living with the condition.
Nursing care for Parkinson’s patients
It is critical to remember that you or your loved one, whoever has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, are not alone. There are treatments available that can help with symptom control, but it is also essential to take care of your mental wellbeing too.
It will be advantageous to talk with a counsellor, which your GP can help with. Additionally, Parkinson’s UK is a support and research charity that can help you and even point you to local support groups.
At some point down the line, nursing care at home can help you maintain your independence and help you adapt to the changes you experience. You can find more information here. Remember that you are not alone. You are probably, and understandably, feeling overwhelmed, so take some time to let everything sink in and be kind to yourself.