As the average life expectancy continues to increase, age-related health conditions are becoming more prevalent. Two examples are Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, both of which are typically seen later in life and affect neurological and cognitive functioning. As these diseases share some similarities, many people believe they are related. Taking a closer look at both helps us to understand these conditions.
Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are not the same, but they do have some similarities. Both are more common in individuals age 50 or older, and both conditions progress, or get worse, over time. Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are also both neurodegenerative diseases which means they impact neurological functioning and cause brain cells to become damaged and die. Both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can cause dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease contributes to a much higher number of dementia cases while Parkinson’s disease has a more significant and immediate impact on motor functioning.
While these conditions are similar in some ways, they also have differences. Parkinson’s is primarily a disease that impacts motor functioning. A typical Parkinson’s patient will lose the ability to ambulate independently and will often experience uncontrollable tremors, muscle rigidity and impaired coordination. Seniors with Parkinson’s often require assistance with activities of daily living early in the condition, and many benefit from the assistance of a qualified in home aide if their goal is to continue aging in place. While dementia is a potential side effect of Parkinson’s later in the illness, many seniors with Parkinson’s never lose cognitive functioning so it is not primarily a memory disorder.
One of the earliest indicators of Alzheimer’s includes loss of memory. For most, the disease first impacts short term memory, and as it progresses, long term memory also diminishes. Alzheimer’s patients also benefit from professional in home care, but in the earliest stages, their needs may be more in line with supervision and reminders to take medications, get dressed or eat a meal, but the senior may remain independent with these tasks for some time with reminders and encouragement.
The Link to Quality of Life
While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s are very different, they both have the potential to negatively impact quality of life and longevity if they are not diagnosed early and treated correctly. Many Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients suffer from depression and a lack of quality sleep, and several experience a decrease in both dreaming and non-dreaming phases of sleep. Recent studies have been conducted to better understand the link between these two conditions, and researchers now believe that Alzheimer’s patients are about eight times as likely to develop Parkinson’s in their lifetime. As a result of this finding, many scientists now believe that understanding one condition can help us to better understand and possibly even cure the other in our lifetime.
Receiving the proper diagnosis is critical for any senior who may be experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, but it is also important to understand how these conditions may be linked and what they have in common. Additionally, receiving the proper care is essential for improved quality of life and enhanced longevity regardless of the diagnosis. At Salus Homecare San Diego, our professional team of in home aides and in home healthcare workers receive ongoing training that helps them to understand and work with patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Our goal is always to treat all seniors with dignity and respect and provide individualized, comprehensive care that truly meets the needs of our clients. If you or a loved one is struggling to remain independent following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, we are here to help. Give us a call to schedule your free, no obligation consultation anytime.
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