I was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s. What steps can I take to maintain my balance and mobility?

A: Staying active and having a regular exercise routine is essential to maintaining balance and mobility for all people, but this is especially true for individuals with Parkinson’s because symptoms of Parkinson’s, which is a disorder of the nervous system, include muscle rigidity and impaired balance. It is important for those experiencing early signs to start or continue exercising. Be sure to consult with your physician prior to starting an exercise program to determine what exercises are best suited for you. Parkinson’s is unique in the speed and way in which it progresses, and certain types of exercise are more conducive to those with Parkinson’s. Below are a few suggestions:

Aerobic Exercise

Low impact exercises such as biking, walking, dancing and even non-contact boxing are great options. Partaking in aerobic exercise even three times a week for twenty minutes can help with mobility and endurance. If you are motivated by seeing progress, a pedometer is an inexpensive way to track your steps. Many smartphones already have applications installed that can record your workouts.

Resistance Training

Mild to moderate resistance training using weights or bands will develop strength in your muscles, which in turns helps maintain balance and prevents injuries from falls.

Balance and Flexibility

Exercises that are low impact and improve balance include tai chi, yoga, Pilates and qi gong. Stretch bands are another way to incorporate flexibility exercises.

Q: My father was diagnosed with Stage Three Parkinson’s. What exactly is that and how many ‘stages’ are there?

A: There are five stages in Parkinson’s. Stage One is mild, with a person experiencing tremors or changes in facial expression and/or walking. Stage Two is when the tremors and other movement issues begin to get noticeably worse. A hallmark of Stage Three is a significant slowness of movement, but a person is still able to live independently. By Stage Four, however, a person cannot live by themselves – at least not full-time – and needs the assistance of someone to help care for them. Stage Five is the most serious stage and people who are at this stage can no longer walk or stand and require a wheelchair or may even be bedridden. 

Q: When a loved one has Stage Three Parkinson’s and is still independent, how long before they will require extra help at home?

A: Good question, and the answer is that the rate of progression of the disease depends on the individual. With that in mind, it’s best to do your research and be prepared. Seeking information about home health care and private care in advance may be helpful. If your loved one becomes unable to do certain necessary things like dressing themselves or going to the restroom, you will know who to call. But remember, not all home health and private care services are the same, so do your research. You always want a reputable company that’s licensed and bonded and does thorough background checks.

Q: Can Parkinson’s stay mild?

A: Parkinson’s is progressive and while initially it may be mild, it will become increasingly debilitating. However, research is underway and there is always hope for the future.

This information is for educational purposes. Please consult your physician for any medical issues. For more information about VNA services, call 321-752-7550 or visit www.vnatc.com.