Common Myths and Misconceptions about Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive, neurological disease that mainly affects those in the elderly community. Around 1 in 500 people develop Parkinson’s disease and there is no way to prevent or cure it. Most people know very little about Parkinson’s disease but it is very important for family caregivers to understand the myths and misconceptions surrounding Parkinson’s disease so that they can provide their loved ones with the best possible care. In this article we would like to offer some information to help family caregivers discern myth from fact when dealing with Parkinson’s disease.

The first myth is that only the elderly get Parkinson’s disease. It is true that people in their late fifties or sixties are more likely to develop the disease but that does not mean that younger people cannot develop Parkinson’s. People under the age of forty can develop Parkinson’s and there have been more cases in younger people in recent years.  Right now studies show that only 5-10 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease are under the age of forty, but family caregivers should still watch for signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in their younger family members. Those with early onset Parkinson’s disease usually do not experience balance problems or problems with their thinking right away but they are more likely to experience involuntary movements or vibration in their body so family caregivers should look for these signs.

Another common myth surrounding Parkinson’s disease is that it is preventable. It is always good for people of any age to try to live a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising, but following a healthy lifestyle will not prevent Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have not identified the exact cause of the disease at this point but many believe that Parkinson’s disease is linked to genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Until researchers identify the exact cause of the disease there will be no proven ways to prevent the disease.

Many people also believe that medication is the only way to treat Parkinson’s disease. Medication can be very helpful in controlling symptoms but it is not the only possible treatment option. Regular exercise can help control or minimize tremors by strengthening the muscles in the body. Family caregivers can assist their loved ones by walking with them on a regular basis or signing them up for an exercise class. Balance exercises can also be helpful for those with Parkinson’s disease because the disease can affect balance as it progresses. Exercise can help with controlling or minimizing tremors, but it is important to note that not everyone with Parkinson’s disease experiences tremors. Seventy percent of people with Parkinson’s disease will experience tremors so they are in the majority but there are still a good number of people that will never experience tremors. Family caregivers should watch for tremors in their loved one and keep a few exercise ideas in mind to help control tremors if they do develop.

When faced with a Parkinson’s diagnosis many patients feel like it is the end of the world but it is not a death sentence and many people with Parkinson’s disease continue to live independently for many years. Medication, exercise and a healthy diet are very helpful in managing Parkinson’s symptoms and many people with Parkinson’s continue to live their lives just as they did before their diagnosis. Family caregivers should offer help and make themselves available if their loved one needs anything but it is important for family caregivers to allow their loved one to remain independent if they choose to. They can check in periodically to make sure that their loved one’s symptoms are under control without becoming overbearing. Family caregivers and patients should also keep in mind that Parkinson’s disease is not fatal. Parkinson’s can lead to pneumonia or aspiration pneumonia which causes problems with swallowing, but many people with Parkinson’s never experience either and live for several more decades after being diagnosed.

Family caregivers should make sure that they understand the myths surrounding Parkinson’s disease and that their loved ones do as well. The most important thing for family caregivers and patients to keep in mind is that Parkinson’s is not a death sentence and many people live long healthy lives with the proper treatment of their disease. Family caregivers can assist their loved ones by making sure that they know how to properly manage their symptoms and that they are checking on their loved ones regularly so that they can monitor the progression of their disease. As previously mentioned, those with Parkinson’s disease can remain independent but it always a good idea for family caregivers to keep an eye on their loved ones just to be on the safe side.

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