My mother had Parkinson's Disease (PD) for the last sixteen years of her life. During that time I tried to learn as much as I could about the disease. I am still active in the local support group.
If you or a loved one has had PD for any length of time, you already know the following, but if you are new to PD, this may help.
EXERCISE! EXERCISE! EXERCISE!
We've known that exercise was just as important as medication in the treatment of PD. Now, we know the earlier a Parkinsonian starts a program of regular exercise, the better the Parkinsonian does. Get your neurologist to prescribe physical therapy and demand that the therapist provide you with an exercise program you can do at home.
Go to a neurologist that sees lots of Parkinsonians. You may love your family physician or your internist, but PD is a complex disease, you must have a neurologist.
Watch out for constipation! The biggest muscle system you have is your digestive system. It slows down with PD. Blockages can kill. Tell your neurologist if you have constipation, then follow the doctor's advice. Mother started out with prune juice and Metamucil and ended taking Metamucil and Miralax daily. Eat a high fiber diet, if you can.
Watch out for respiratory infections. Parkinsonians take shallow breaths. As the disease progresses, any cold can turn into something life-threatening. See your family physician or internist when you catch a cold. Respiratory infections kill Parkinsonians.
A word for caregivers: a symptom of PD is a failure to initiate. This means Parkinsonians have a hard time beginning any task including exercise. You may have to help them get started.
Watch out for depression. Most Parkinsonians will experience depression that needs to be treated with medication. Tell your neurologist if you are feeling down.
For more information join a support group. Both the Parkinsonian and the caregiver need the help support groups provide.