Receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease (PD) can be a life-altering experience, not only for the person with the diagnosis, but also for the spouse, child, parent or friend who becomes the person’s primary caregiver. The role of caregiver can become a challenging job, both emotionally and physically. Caregivers take on many responsibilities to support their loved one during the progression of PD. The better prepared you are in managing life as a caregiver or care partner of a loved one with PD, the easier the outlook will be for everyone.
Take care of you
As a caregiver of a loved one with PD, you have an important job to do. However, the most important job is to take the best care of yourself. Take time for you, eat healthy, exercise regularly, stay positive, and continue with your personal and social life as much as possible. Try not to put your life on hold, and continue to enjoy your hobbies or social groups as much as you can. Caregivers should also try to maintain as normal a schedule as is feasible. Find ways to relax and manage the stress. If necessary, ask for help yourself. You may be the support of your loved one, but it is certainly okay to need support as well. If you’re feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or too stressed to think clearly, then you can’t be at your best, as a person or as a caregiver.
Educate yourself as much as possible about your loved one’s diagnosis, so you will know how to help. Learn as much about managing PD as possible, without getting yourself overwhelmed by information. Information overload is certainly an issue, however, you may be more effective if you are well informed and advised. Utilizing support groups or online communities like ours can be a great place to start without feeling inundated with massive amounts of information. Educating yourself will also help prepare you for any changes in your loved one’s symptoms or behavior. An effective caregiver is a well-informed caregiver.
Join a support group
Joining a support group is a great way to share feelings, experiences and gain helpful advice. You may need someone to talk with openly and honestly, or someone to listen to and support you. It may be reassuring to know that you are not alone and that there are others on a similar journey as you. Although our community has a lot of information regarding first-hand experience with PD, we also have information and a network for caregivers!
Being organized and setting realistic goals can help both you and your loved one address each day. Try as best as possible to be organized with medical information and records. Focus on making daily or weekly to-do lists, and working with your loved one to make plans and goals. Organize doctor’s appointments and prescriptions, and try to keep notes of physician encounters, as well as changing medications, symptoms, or behaviors.
Adapt to the progression
There will be many transitions during this PD journey, so researching the care available, and adapting to the progression will be essential for a positive outlook. Don’t be afraid to seek out help and ask for guidance.
The caregiver’s role can sometimes be challenging; from learning about the condition and how best to help your loved one, to remembering to also care for yourself. It’s important to adjust to your new role while maintaining a healthy and supportive relationship with your loved one. Let us know how you take on the responsibility of being a caregiver, or how your caregiver makes an impact on your journey!
National Parkinson Foundation. New Parkinson’s Caregiver? 7 Things You Should Know. 2016. http://www.parkinson.org/find-help/blogs/caregiver-corner/december-2016. Accessed April 1, 2017.
Cleveland Clinic. Tips for Caregivers. 2013. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/tips-for-caregivers. Accessed April 1, 2017.
The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. 7 Tips for New Parkinson’s Disease Caregivers. 2014. https://www.michaeljfox.org/foundation/news-detail.php?tips-for-new-parkinson-disease-caregivers. Accessed April 1, 2017.