parkinsonsAt Elder Law of East Tennessee, we see a good number of people who have Parkinson’s Disease. Families tell us that early symptoms include increasing unsteadiness, falls, fine motor tremors, somewhat clouded cognition or judgment, and flat facial expressions. Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive brain disorder in which dopamine-producing neurons are damaged over time, causing a variety of motor and non-motor symptoms. In layman’s terms, this means that the individual may know that they need to move their legs to walk, but the neurons which carry that message to the lower extremities are short-circuited. Sometimes they work; sometimes they don’t.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease. In the United States, over one million people currently suffer from Parkinson’s. An additional 50,000 – 60,000 are diagnosed every year. Like many other progressive debilitating diseases, the effects go far beyond the diagnosed individual. The entire family system is often involved in managing and planning for the care needs of a loved one with Parkinson’s. April is National Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, so now is a great time to learn more about the disease, spread awareness in your community, and learn how you might be of support to those trying to cope with the disease process.

You can begin by checking out the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website and downloading their 30 Ways to Raise Awareness of Parkinson’s toolkit, which includes suggestions and toolkits to help you spread the word, educate yourself and others, and provide financial support for finding a cure. The National Parkinson Foundation is also a great resource for information about the disease and offers useful tools for patients and their families in the PD 101 section of their website.

Because of the typically slow progression of Parkinson’s, diagnosed individuals and their loved ones usually live with the disease for a long time. This means that sound long-term legal, financial, and health care planning are critical to ensure the best possible quality of live for both the diagnosed person and his or her family. If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, seek help from an interdisciplinary team of professionals to make sure you get the best advice possible. There may not currently be a cure, but there are many ways to help delay the onset or progression of symptoms.{jcomments off}