Tom manages his Parkinson's disease (PD) symptoms by staying active, eating right and working with his health care team. He recently admitted to his doctor that when his wife isn't home he sometimes forgets to take his medication. His doctor recommended setting an alarm and using a pill organizer.
No two people have exactly the same symptoms or progression, but, like Tom, you or your loved one with PD might experience some symptoms that are unrelated to movement. This may include changes in cognition (the act of mental processing). This includes thinking, understanding, learning, remembering, problem solving and more. Approximately 30% of all people with PD report changes in their memory and thinking ability.
Our new book, Cognition: A Mind Guide to Parkinson's Disease, will help you better understand cognition and includes information and stories that provide answers and remind you that you are not alone on this Parkinson's journey. This guide includes these tips for people with Parkinson's and tips for caregivers:
- Talk to your doctor about what you are experiencing. It can be hard to separate PD symptoms from normal aging. Your doctor can help you identify the underlying cause and manage symptoms.
- Practice skill-based exercises that improve common motor symptoms. Try walking a course with a time goal, riding a bike or learning a new sport.
- Try something new. Neuroplasticity is when we teach our brains a new pattern — a new exercise or practicing a new way of thinking. When you do these things the brain forms new connections and new neurons.
- Avoid loud rooms and distractions when possible. Turn off the television or radio when having a conversation.
- Work on your most difficult tasks in the morning or when you are most alert.
- Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your right to feel emotionally off-balance. An important part of being a caregiver for someone else is taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally.
- Use memory cues to help your loved one with activities of daily living.
- Ask the person with Parkinson's one question at a time and wait for an answer. Use either/or questions instead of open-ended questions.
- Consider what may be causing a disruptive behavior. Is your loved one hungry, tired, in pain, frustrated or bored?
- Read Caring and Coping or call our toll-free Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636). You may begin to realize that you are spending more time as a caregiver than as a significant other or family member. We are here to help.
Along with Cognition, the Parkinson's Foundation recently published Mood and Psychosis to help people with PD and caregivers through these changes. Call our free Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636) to order any of our educational materials or to speak to a Parkinson's specialist.