As you may now know, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the 2nd most common neurodegenerative disease in Canada, just behind Alzheimer’s. Daily, 25 Canadians are diagnosed; the majority of whom are over 60 years of age and young onset strikes some in their late teens. Unlike Alzheimer’s the 1st leading neurological disease for our elder population, Parkinson’s does not have any uniquely designed “care in the home” setting.

Earlier in 2016, I was privileged to care for someone with PD. He was an 88-year-old, a Manitoban who I count as the jolliest person I have ever met. He likes sports (soccer), fishing and most of all spending time with his 14 grand kids. At one moment he might seem normal and later might have symptoms you may not expect. He sometimes encountered major mobility challenges just to make it back to his chair, from the bathroom door to the toilet. He might have trouble sleeping and even on occasion choking from just drinking water. He had difficulty maintaining the same caregiver as they frequently faced anxiety that he might fall and cause himself injuries.

Because I could find no specific care plan for PD, I was driven to try something new. I searched the web and read books and research on PD, I was able to develop the beginnings of a grasp on what people with Parkinson may need. But that, in itself, could not be enough. I wanted to be able to find a way to pursue safer practice. I got in touch with PD expert Kelly Williams, RNBN GNC and Clinical Resource Nurse from the Movement Disorder Clinic – Deer Lodge Centre, and I found in her, even more than what I was searching for. After just a short period of discussion with Kelly, she identified some of the important points one should know for the continuity of the process from the hospital to home (or for that matter, from the movement disorder clinic to home), she had important information on the medication timing, other means to facilitate “walk around” when freezing occurs and countless other measures. An early assessment and identification of what is happening is key to the next move for the person you support.

As a trainer at Partners for Home, we teach our Home Care Partners specifics for the role they will need to perform. We ask them to take part in continuing professional development to promote understanding of the symptoms of Parkinson’s and how to manage them. Parkinson Canada’s accredited online Nurse’s module focuses on how best to support a person with Parkinson’s and their care partners in self-management of the disease. In return, our team can design a special care plan for PD (from continuous learning and past experiences), following the care model for support work: DIPPS (maintaining Dignity, Independence, Privacy, Preference and Safety).

Providing appropriate care for someone with PD at home is not just about keeping them safe, it also is about giving them a greater chance to pursue quality of life. Providing the most appropriate care will enrich and may lengthen the life of a person with Parkinson’s. Working with you, I and along with members of Partners for Home team, will do what it takes to pursue a safer approach in delivering care for individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

To know more about Parkinson’s disease, visit the websites of the Movement Disorder ClinicDeer Lodge Centre and Parkinson Canada.