April 30, 2012

Before we say goodbye to April’s showers to usher in May’s flowers, we want to take this week to honor Parkinson’s Awareness. Technically, April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, but it’s never the wrong time to shed some light on such a debilitating and progressive disease. As we at Griswold always say, with knowledge and awareness comes power — in this case, it’s the power to help relieve the draining symptoms of Parkinson’s and make your loved one’s life as comfortable as possible. 

Here’s a quick background on Parkinson’s disease:

Parkinson’s is a disorder of the brain that causes shaking (called “tremors”) of the hands, arms and/or legs and difficulty with walking, coordination and movement in general.

The disease occurs when the brain’s nerve cells that make dopamine, the chemical that helps control muscle movement, are destroyed. This leads to loss of muscle function.

The exact reason these brain cells begin eroding is unknown.  Tremors, the most common sign of the disease, are usually the first symptom.* As it progresses, the disease affects all body muscles, leading to trouble swallowing or constipation in early stages. In the later stages, the person may experience blank expression, trouble speaking and a decline in mental ability (dementia).

Parkinson’s usually develops between the ages of 50 and 60, but symptoms may start earlier. It affects both men and women.  It is one of the most common nervous system disorders of the elderly.

* Although, not everyone with Parkinson’s experiences tremors and not everyone with tremors has Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s is a “whole body” disease, progressively rendering muscles incapable of basic functioning and eventually attacking the brain and mental abilities. The difficulty of watching this unpleasant pairing of physical and mental deterioration in your loved one is impossible to articulate. So we won’t waste time trying to do so.

Instead, we’ll work toward the positive, which is making your loved one as comfortable as possible. Check back soon — or subscribe to get Griswold Blog posts sent straight to your inbox — for nutritional tips for Parkinson’s sufferers.