Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month


In case you didn’t know, April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, so it is extremely appropriate to devote a post to awareness and education.

While promotion and funding for research efforts are a year-round activity, having a month devoted to the cause allows advocacy groups to come together with a big push in the month of April.

First of all, as you may have read in other geriatric care posts on this blog, Parkinson’s Disease falls under the umbrella of dementia. According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF):

“Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons. Parkinson’s primarily affects neurons in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. Some of these dying neurons produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. As PD progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally.1

Without the ability to control movements, normal daily activities such as communicating, reasoning, getting dressed or caring for oneself are challenging. Those in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease usually require home health, assisted living or access to a nurse who makes frequent house calls for care and daily therapy.

Typical physical indicators of Parkinson’s Disease are a tremor of the limbs and face, bradykinesia (delayed movement), body stiffness and diminished balance1. The areas of the brain that are affected by the disease are also related to nonmotor activity, including smelling and sleeping, as well as gastrointestinal functioning1.

You may not realize this, but approximately one million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s Disease1. You think that is high? Because of the nature of geriatric care, many times Parkinson’s Disease goes undiagnosed and uncared for because it is confused with general symptoms of old age and geriatrics. In those situations, people do not get the care and therapy they need to maintain a good quality of life, amplifying the symptoms.

Unfortunately, at this time, there are no known cures for Parkinson’s Disease. While there are medicines to care for symptoms short term, Parkinson’s disease is long-lasting and constantly advancing within one’s brain.

How can you help? Get the word out about Parkinson’s Disease. The more educated we are, the more likely we are to devote time and money to research to find a cure.

1Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (2014) What is Parkinson’s Disease? Retrieved April 28, 2014