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The Stages of Parkinson’s Disease and How Care Models are Adapting

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological movement disorder that comes with a wide range of symptoms. 

As the brain loses neurons essential to producing dopamine, dopamine levels decrease, leading to impaired movement and other symptoms. 

While there is no specific test for Parkinson’s disease, a physician or specialist will often use the Hoehn and Yahir rating scale to determine how far the disease has progressed. 

Like other neurological disorders, Parkinson’s disease does not have a cure, but it is treatable. 

The Kensington White Plains has the training and compassion needed to care for your loved one, no matter which Parkinson’s stage they’re in.

We are passionate about our residents and improving the lives of all seniors, so we have partnered with the Parkinson’s Foundation and the Parkinson’s Foundation of the National Capital Area (PFNCA) by hosting several events and support groups. 

Learn what the five stages of Parkinson’s disease are, the early warning signs, how to support your senior loved one, and how our community can help. 

What are the warning signs of Parkinson’s disease?

A senior can have Parkinson’s disease for years before ever showing common symptoms or being diagnosed with the disorder. 

Until specific motor symptoms are present, a clinical diagnosis can not be made, but early warning signs are connected to the development of this neurological disease. 

Motor symptoms 

Common movement symptoms: 

  • Slow movements
  • Tremors and shaking
  • Rigidity or muscle stiffness
  • Trouble walking 
  • Balance problems
  • Coordination problems
  • Involuntary muscle contractions
  • Blinking less often 
  • Drooling
  • Small handwriting
  • Unusually soft speaking voice

Non motor symptoms 

Possible emotional, behavioral, and physiological symptoms include: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • A decrease in emotional expression 
  • Confusion, delusions, and hallucinations 
  • Cognitive decline
  • Diminished sense of smell
  • Vision problems
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Low blood pressure when standing
  • Problems with speech 
  • Difficulty chewing and swallowing
  • Sleep problems due to restless legs or rem sleep behavior disorder
  • Other sleep disorders
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Constipation 
  • Lewy body dementia, or other dementia’s

What are the 5 stages of Parkinson’s Disease?

Not everyone diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease will go through the stages of the disease at the same pace. However, there does seem to be a typical pattern experienced by most seniors. 

Regardless of which stage your senior loved one has advanced to, an enhanced assisted living community such as The Kensington White Plains can support your loved one and adapt to their changing needs. 

Stage 1

Initially only mild symptoms are present in this stage. A senior can likely carry out their daily tasks and activities with little trouble.

During this early stage, your loved one may be more sluggish than usual and experience stiffness on one side of their body. 

Stage 2

Your senior may receive a diagnosis for their disease at this point as tremors, shaking, walking, and speech become more difficult. They may also experience muscle stiffness on both sides of their bodies.

Since tasks and chores will become more challenging for your senior loved one now, you may need to offer them a helping hand. 

While it is still relatively early, it would be wise to look into assisted living communities in these early stages.

Stage 3

By now, the disease is considered mid stage. Your loved one may still be independent, but need assistance with cooking, cleaning, dressing, and running errands. Motor function starts to decrease. 

At an assisted living community, your senior loved one would receive emotional support, occupational and physical therapy, and a safe home to live in. 

Comfort and safety are essential, as seniors in the middle stages of Parkinson’s disease have an increased risk of falls and accidents. Nurses may offer medications to help manage their symptoms. 

Stage 4

In late stage Parkinson’s disease, daily activities will become more challenging, and your senior will need daily assistance. 

A loving community can improve your senior’s quality of life with enhanced dining services, medication management, around-the-clock care, and special equipment like walkers and assistive devices.

Stage 5

This is the most advanced stage of the disease. Your loved one will need care from highly trained professionals. 

A senior who cannot stand or leave their bed may need a wheelchair for mobility, 24/7 nursing care, and possibly transition to a memory care community if memory loss and dementia have set in. 

Parkinson’s disease is not life-threatening, and seniors with the condition may live as long as those without it due to advances in treatment.

What happens when Parkinson’s Disease Progresses?

Most adults diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are 60 years old or older. 

However, the disease begins progressing before the appearance of any symptoms.

Effects on the central nervous system are chronic, and as neurons in the brain die and dopamine levels decrease, the disease will progress. 

The progression of Parkinson’s is relatively slow, meaning it could take years for your loved one to show symptoms or advance to a more severe stage. 

Symptoms will start mild, allowing a senior to remain independent for quite some time. While they may notice some stiffness or loss of muscle control, it won’t be enough to hold them back from hobbies, working, and daily living. 

Once they begin to progress into the more advanced stages, a senior will need professional assistance as their balance and mobility decrease, and they have difficulties speaking, eating, and walking. 

Care options for a loved one 

As your loved one’s symptoms worsen, it can become increasingly difficult for you or other family members to keep up with their needs. 

Trying to care for your loved one as their disease progresses will even put you at an increased risk of caregiver burnout

Deciding to transition your senior loved one to an assisted living or memory care community can be challenging, but as their disease progression, it is best for their well-being.

Without a team of compassionate and highly trained professionals, your senior loved one may not be able to maintain their independence and social life or manage their symptoms and pain. 

A care team that has received training from the Parkinson’s Foundation will be able to take care of your senior loved one, even when they have high care needs. 

The Kensington White Plains enhanced care communities 

Our enhanced assisted living, and memory care communities have made it Our Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own. 

With our staff being trained on Parkinson’s disease care form The Parkinson’s Foundation, as well as a collaborative care approach, your senior will have the opportunity to age in place, maintain their independence, and improve their quality of life. 

To ensure that our residents are comfortable, healthy, and enjoying our community, we offer on-site rehabilitation, life-enrichment activities, exquisite dining services, spiritual services, cozy rooms, and secure grounds. 

Parkinson’s disease affects many of our residents, which is why The Kensington White Plains recently did a podcast with Nancy Nealon from the Parkinson’s Foundation. It is a disease close to our hearts and one we advocate for.

Contact us to learn more about our beautiful grounds, high-acuity care services, amenities, and resources. At The Kensington White Plains, we are here to support you and your family in your Parkinson’s journey. We are here to help, and hope to be a lending hand.

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