Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurological disorders. It is characterized by a decrease in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement, which leads to tremors and other symptoms. As the disease progresses, patients may experience difficulty walking or turning over in bed.
To make matters worse, these impairments can negatively impact their quality of life and make it difficult to perform daily activities such as bathing or dressing. But there is hope. Nurses trained in Parkinson’s care can help these patients improve their ability to manage their symptoms at home, so they don’t have to go into nursing homes prematurely, or worse yet, spend years waiting for an opening at one.
In this article, we’ll explore how nurses can assist with Parkinson’s care and why they need to have this specific training on their resume:
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disease affecting the brain, causing movement problems and other symptoms. The first signs of Parkinson’s can be difficult to detect, but they can include:
- Tremors in your hands or fingers when you move them
- Slow movements or stiffness when you walk
- Problem in balancing
- Stiffness in limbs and trunk
Parkinson’s usually develops over a long period and worsens over time. But it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Some people may experience mild symptoms, while others are more severely affected by the condition.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder in the United States after Alzheimer’s disease.
While most people diagnosed with PD are over 60 years old, around 5 to 10 percent of those with the disease are diagnosed before reaching 50 years old. Roughly 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD, but due to underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis, the actual number is thought to be much higher. Experts suggest that up to 1 million Americans may have PD.
Expertise Required for Nurses Providing Parkinson’s Care
A nurse plays a crucial role in Parkinson’s care. A qualified nurse practitioner (NP) can perform many tasks, including:
- Administering medications and injections
- Diagnosing and treating diseases, injuries, and other health conditions
- Performing physical assessments of patients to determine their health status
Nurses who wish to specialize in Parkinson’s care can pursue an online direct-entry MSN program. This program is designed for individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and wish to become registered nurses with a master’s degree in nursing.
The program provides comprehensive training in nursing theory, research, and clinical practice. It covers Parkinson’s disease in-depth, including the disease’s etiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment options.
Nurses will learn to assess, diagnose, and manage symptoms, including motor symptoms, non-motor symptoms, and complications associated with the disease. They will also be trained in non-pharmacological interventions, such as physical therapy, exercise, and nutrition, that can improve a patient’s quality of life.
The Importance of Skilled Nursing Assessment and Monitoring in Parkinson’s Care
Skilled nursing assessment and monitoring can help Parkinson’s patients and their families by:
- Decreasing the risk of complications such as infection, blood clots, pneumonia, and sudden death.
- Identifying issues such as pain or depression that may not be apparent to the family member or caregiver.
- Helping with planning for future care needs (such as assisted living) should they become necessary.
Strategies for Effective Symptom Management in Parkinson’s Disease
According to MSN, while Parkinson’s Disease (PD) has no known cure, there are several strategies available to alleviate its symptoms. In cases where the symptoms are not particularly distressing, medication may not be required right away.
Early treatment may increase the likelihood of side effects and other complications in the future. Typically, medication is administered when the symptoms begin to impede daily tasks such as work, household chores, or leisure activities.
The importance of nursing expertise in managing PD is highlighted by the fact that nursing staff is often the first point of contact for patients and their families.
Their role includes:
- Providing education about the condition and its treatment.
- Monitoring symptoms and side effects.
- Identifying problems that may require medical intervention.
- Helping patients to cope with physical disability caused by PD (e.g., mobility issues).
- Supporting caregivers through difficult times.
- Assisting with tasks such as household chores or meal preparation when possible.
- Providing emotional support during stressful periods (e.g., when taking medications).
- Managing pain associated with movement disorders such as stiffness/spasms or falls due to freezing gait.
Communication and Coordination within the Parkinson’s Care Team
Communication and coordination need to be a priority in the Parkinson’s care team. Communication is key to the treatment’s success in PD because it allows team members to share information quickly, easily, and efficiently.
The nurse is important in facilitating this process by serving as an intermediary between doctors and patients or families. Coordination refers not only to being able to communicate effectively with other members of your team but also knowing how best to utilize their expertise when planning patient care strategies.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic condition that can affect the quality of life for both patients and caregivers. The ability to manage symptoms and improve the quality of life for these individuals depends on their access to skilled nursing care, which can be provided by nurses in a variety of settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, or private clinics.