Parkinson’s disease (PD) isn’t always easy to spot at first, but it’s important to be aware of the symptoms early on as thousands of cases go undetected each year. Whether Mom’s hands are shaking more than normal or her movements are “delayed,” getting her symptoms checked out with a neurologist is the first step to getting the treatment she needs.
The Parkinson’s Foundation notes that about one million Americans live with PD, and approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with it each year—meaning that approximately 1% of the population over 60-years-old has PD.
The symptoms of PD may vary from person to person, but the primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease to watch for are:
1. Slurred words. Mom’s words may begin to slur when she is speaking, or she may hesitate before she says something in a quieter tone.
2. Tremors. This is one of the most common symptoms of PD. Tremors may start in Mom’s hands and progress up to her arm. Jaw and facial tremors may also be present. A sign that Mom may have early PD is a back-and-forth rubbing of her forefinger and thumb.
3. Slowed movements. Becoming slower comes with age, but with PD, Mom may drag her feet when she walks—making her simple tasks become more difficult. Look for signs that she’s struggling, such as how much time it takes her to do simple tasks that she used do with ease.
4. Rigidity in the arms, legs, or neck. If Mom is complaining about soreness in her muscles, it could be because she is having muscle stiffness from PD.
5. Loss of balance or postural instability. Actions that previously didn’t take any thought—anything from blinking to moving her arms when she walks—may become foreign to Mom if she’s developing PD.
If you’ve noticed one or more of these symptoms on more than one occasion, consulting a doctor should be Mom’s next step. While there is no cure or standard treatment for PD, there may be treatment options that can help alleviate some of the symptoms she’s experiencing. Many of these options, including balance activities or physical exercise, can be carried out in a senior living setting.