While changes in motor control are among some of the most recognizable symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, this illness is also characterized by emotional dysfunction. Nearly 40% of seniors with Parkinson’s develop depression along with apathy and anxiety. Understanding the different ways in which PD affects a senior’s mental health enables caregivers to provide appropriate forms of emotional support. As Columbus home care providers know, this can be especially important in the weeks and months that follow diagnosis.
Moving from Denial to Adaptation
Given that Parkinson’s is a progressive illness and one that cannot be cured, many seniors go through a short period of denial after receiving a PD diagnosis. They may become discouraged and spend an inordinate amount of time asking the question, “Why me?” As acceptance draws near, it is not uncommon for seniors to become more involved in their treatment plans, willing to cooperate with prospective in-home caregivers, and able to adapt to the changes they are experiencing.
Family members should remain supportive as seniors work towards accepting their illnesses. Rather than trying to rush a family member to acceptance, it is better to simply offer support when it is needed and give this person space. Once a senior is ready to adapt by exerting control over the illness through improved life habits and a greater involvement in the treatment process, it is vital for close family and friends to keep themselves accessible.
Decreased Dopamine and Serotonin
Seniors with PD are especially vulnerable to problems like depression and anxiety. This is because the disease attacks the neurological pathway that is responsible for the creation of dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine can be likened to motor oil that ensures ease and fluidity of physical movements. As the natural supply of dopamine abates, motor symptoms start to appear. Conversely, serotonin helps elevate mood and promotes mood balance. When serotonin supplies begin to fluctuate and abate, negative emotions like anxiety and depression tend to become more frequent and increasingly intense.
This is why it is important for seniors with Parkinson’s to have ongoing access to a loving support system. There are many medical interventions that can help people experience increased mood balance, but these are often far less effective when seniors live in isolation or are simply unable to vent their emotions. In addition to the physiological causes of anxiety and depression that PD creates, seniors can also be fearful of becoming burdensome, losing their autonomy, and losing the ability to do many of the things that they enjoy. Whether these emotions rear their heads immediately after diagnosis or take time to manifest, caregivers can reassure their elderly loved ones and actively listen to their concerns.
The days and months after a diagnosis can be especially difficult for seniors and their families. However, you don’t have to move forward alone. As a leading provider of Parkinson’s care in Columbus, Home Care Assistance can help you and your loved one plan for the future. Our expertly trained caregivers deliver care with the utmost dignity and respect, and we encourage seniors to participate in their care, preserving independence and fostering self-esteem. To learn more about the care services in your area, call us at (614) 481-8888 and speak with a friendly Care Manager.