National Parkinson’s Awareness Month: Recognizing Depression & Anxiety in Parkinson’s Patients

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month and an opportunity to increase awareness and show support to those affected by the neurodegenerative disorder. Depression and anxiety in Parkinson’s patients can often present due to changes in brain chemistry caused by the disease itself. Today, we’re sharing a guide on how to recognize depression and anxiety in Parkinson’s patients and some best practices for care.

It is important to know if your patient or loved one has anxiety or depression because it may affect the course of their Parkinson’s progression, their overall health, and their quality of life. Depression is a part of Parkinson’s disease itself, resulting from changes in the chemistry of the brain that are involved in regulating mood, energy, motivation, appetite, and sleep. It isn’t always easy to spot the symptoms of depression, but some common examples include changes in appetite and sleep, self-criticism, guilt, crying, less concern about hygiene and health, loss of interest in their usual activities, and trouble paying attention.

Feeling worried is a normal reaction to a Parkinson’s diagnosis. However, feelings of constant worry or nervousness may go beyond what is expected or manageable. Anxiety is another common non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s disease. It is important to note that anxiety is not simply a reaction to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s, but instead a part of the disease itself, caused by changes in the brain chemistry of the brain. In general, symptoms of anxiety may include excessive fear and worry, uncontrollable or unwanted thoughts, sudden waves of terror, nightmares, ritualistic behaviors, problems sleeping, cold and sweaty hands, and nausea

  • Educate yourself
    Investigate educational materials that can help you understand the disease and its progression. Parkinson’s is a complex disease and it’s important to get accurate information—what works for one person may not work for the next.
  • Be observant
    It’s important to watch for changes in symptoms, abilities, and moods. You should carefully take note of your loved one’s condition, especially after adjustments to medication or treatments.
  • Be flexible
    Your loved one’s symptoms may change over time—even over the course of a day. Be patient and flexible if your plans are derailed by a day of symptoms. Try to give your loved one or patient the best possible chance to perform certain tasks independently before stepping in to assist.
  • Build a good relationship
    Caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s can place a great deal of stress on your relationship. It’s important to keep communication as open as possible and be flexible with your changing roles.

Part of the caregiving journey is recognizing when your loved one requires professional help to manage symptoms and lifestyle changes that come with Parkinson’s. LifeWorx can provide a professional caregiver to support you and your loved one at home. Give us a call to find out how we can help.

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