Dear Family Resource,
My dad has Parkinson’s disease. He lives with us and can still get around with a walker, but he’s definitely gotten shakier and the tremors have gotten worse. We’ve enjoyed having him here but I’m dreading the time when he can no longer walk and will need more of my help. My mom died four years ago, and frankly, I think I’m more prepared for my dad’s death than I am for when he goes from able-bodied to disabled, from walker to wheelchair to being bedridden. How long will all this take? I want to be prepared not just practically but also emotionally. Do you have any words of wisdom?
~Dreading the Future
It sounds like you could use some help and a support system. As you know, Parkinson’s disease is progressive, debilitating, and unpredictable; it’s never the same for two people. I strongly encourage you to speak with your father’s primary physician about his current situation and your fears. Perhaps your father can benefit from physical therapy services, either outpatient or at home. The therapist will thoroughly evaluate your father’s current abilities and make recommendations for the best equipment and therapy program. There are several agencies that provide services, support, and information to people and families with Parkinson’s. The NW Parkinson’s Foundation and the Booth Gardner Parkinson’s Care Center are great places to start.
You can also access your local hospital. They often have support and service resources as well. If your father qualifies for home health services through the Medicare program, he could receive physical therapy, bath aide services and access to a medical social worker. The social worker can help you find additional services that may be available or appropriate.
Lastly, try hiring a home care agency. An agency caregiver can relieve you a few hours a day, a few times a week. The home care aide could help with the morning or evening routine, exercises, breakfast, and companionship, thus giving you and your dad a much-needed break. Worrying won’t help something you cannot control. Keep your chin up and enjoy your father while you can.