Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that affects movement and cognition. Dopamine producing cells in the brain are necessary for movement and cognition. Parkinson's disease attacks and destroys dopamine cells causing a reduction in the ability to move and to think. By the time symptoms are sufficiently evident to result in a diagnosis of the disease, approximately 50% of the dopamine cells have been destroyed.
Symptoms commonly associated with Parkinson's, are tremors, rigidity of movement, slow movement and poor balance. Additionally, in later stages it is common to develop difficulty swallowing, speech problems and dementia.
Although there are medications that can help manage the symptoms of the disease, there is no cure and it is essential that the caregiver work closely with the physician to monitor and change medications as symptoms change. Research has shown that medications can improve the quality of life, reduce falls, and improve the sense of well being a patient experiences.
Since certain drugs can have unwanted side effects such as poor impulse control. It is important to report these symptoms to the neurologist. In later stages of the disease, hallucinations are possible. They are generally a result of the medications used to help control motor functions. It is a delicate balance between controlling movements and limiting the side effects of the medications. Keeping track of the symptoms and collaborating with the Doctor is an important role of the family caregiver.