Just a few weeks ago, I found out that a dear loved one, who is in her 60s, has Parkinson’s Disease. So it is not without irony that I was reminded April was Parkinson’s Awareness Month.
For many years, I have had the distinct privilege of educating Parkinson’s patients and their families on the need to plan and protect against the financial and social devastations of the disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder. Symptoms differ greatly from person to person, so much so that there’s no predicting for sure which a patient will experience or how quickly. No cure exists yet, but medications can give a patient substantial symptom relief and a good quality of life for many years, sometimes a decade or more. When drugs aren’t enough, brain surgery may be an option.
Parkinson’s disease gradually impairs the ability to move, walk, talk, and swallow. It typically develops when patients are in their 50s or 60s, but in roughly 8 percent of cases it strikes before age 40.
For some people, the condition can be severely debilitating in the long term; others are able to function relatively well even after 25 years of living with the disease.
Parkinson’s stems from gradual destruction of certain nerve cells that produce a key chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine helps relay messages within the brain, in the centers that orchestrate muscle movements of the body, to ensure smooth, coordinated motions. Without that signal, muscles can’t respond properly.
Some early symptoms of Parkinson’s include:
- Shakiness, from a tremor in a hand, arm, or leg to the jaw or face when the patient isn’t actively moving.
- Stiffness or rigidity of the arms, legs, and torso.
- Slowness of movements.
- Small, cramped handwriting.
- A stooped posture.
- Less arm-swinging than before while walking.
- A blank, “masklike” facial expression, also called a “flat affect”.
WARNING: Parkinson’s Disease is often misdiagnosed, so believe up to 20% of the time.
As a progressive disease, it is imperative that families prepare for the inevitable incapacities that may come with the disease. The following links provide more details:
To learn more about this and other topics, as well as the Elder Care services that we provide under “The Elder Law Umbrella”, call The Law Offices of Alice Reiter Feld and Associates at 954.726.6602 or visit www.florida-elderlaw.com