Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder for which there is currently no cure. However, there are many different treatment options to manage symptoms of the disease.

Symptoms

Symptoms typically develop slowly over the years, but this can vary from patient to patient. While one of these symptoms on their own is not cause for concern, you should contact your doctor if you are experiencing more than one.

  • Tremor
  • Small handwriting
  • Loss of smell
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble moving or walking
  • Constipation
  • A soft or low voice
  • Masked face
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Stooping or hunching over

Living with Parkinson’s

It can be challenging to live with Parkinson’s, but – in addition to working with your doctor and following recommended therapies – there are things you can focus on to help maintain your quality of life, including:

  • Diet and nutrition
  • Emotional well-being
  • Daily living activities
  • Dental health
  • Sexual health

Raising Awareness

In honor of Parkinson’s Awareness Month, the Parkinson’s Foundation invites you to take the #KnowMorePD quiz to see how much you know about the disease. Anyone who takes the quiz during the month of April will be entered in a weekly drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card. At the end of the month, one grand prize winner will receive a new Kindle Paperwhite pre-loaded with 12 of the foundation’s educational books on PD.

Resources

You can find an abundance of resources on the Parkinson’s Foundation’s website, including, advice for newly diagnosedliving alone, and Veterans and PD.

Take Care of Yourself, Too

Dear Caregiver,

We celebrate you for your dedication to taking care of your loved one. You work tirelessly to ensure they have all they need, often after coming home from full-time jobs and hectic schedules of your own. But in all of your daily appointments and to-do lists, does it say ‘self-care’ anywhere? While we recognize the importance of taking care of your loved one, we also want to remind you of how imperative it is that you also take care of yourself.

Stop Feeling Guilty

We know you have grown accustomed to putting everyone else’s needs before your own. And we know you may feel guilty and think you are being selfish by taking time for yourself. But that is not the case. No, there are not enough hours in the day. And yes, you have so many other things you need to do. But if you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to effectively take care of those who need you. If you are overtired and burnt out, how much help and support can you really provide? So think of it this way: it is actually helping the ones you love when you take care of yourself. Because with a little ‘me time,’ you can be the best version of you for those you love.

Find Someone(s) YOU Can Lean On

Sometimes all you need is someone to talk to who truly gets what you are going through. That support can come in the form of a friend, family member, or even a Facebook group for others in your shoes. There are groups for people caring for elderly parentscaring for a loved one with Dementia, and so many more! There is even a group where you can ask questions and get answers from award-winning nurse and end-of-life educator Barbara Karnes.

Remember…

So don’t forget to add ‘take care of me’ to your to-do list and take some time for yourself. You are not selfish for doing so. You deserve it. And you need it.

Yours truly,

AT Home Care & Hospice

Stress Management

By: Patricia Hudak, RN and Chelsea Cassidy, LCSW

Stress Management

Most individuals can relate to the feelings of stress even if they are not able to relate to the specific circumstance you may be experiencing.  There are different responses to feelings of stress, depending on your own coping techniques and how you address the stressor in your own life.  Stress depends on the duration of the stressor, intensity of the stressor and capacity of the individual to withstand the stress.

What is Stress?

Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes several reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion.

The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimized. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health.  The results of having elevated cortisol levels can be an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels, and a decrease in libido.

FIGHT: When your body goes into a state of stress, we may feel agitated and aggressive towards others; this can be due to our bodies’ natural reaction being “fight”. This can be a helpful reaction to ward off predators, but in unnecessary situations, it can negatively affect relationships and ruin reputations.

FLIGHT: Some of us avoid our stressors, removing ourselves from the situation instead of tackling it. This can be a sign of the “flight” survival instinct; a function that can save our lives if we find ourselves in dangerous surroundings. However, in everyday life, this instinct can lead to a stressful situation escalating and increase our stress levels when we realize that the stressor is not going away and we need to face it.

FREEZE: Unknown by many, there is a third mode that stress can cause; freeze. For some people, becoming stressed sets the stage for ‘dysregulation’.  The energy mobilized by the perceived threat gets “locked” into the nervous system and we ‘freeze’. This response sometimes reveals itself when we breathe. Holding our breath and shallow breathing are both forms of freeze. The occasional deep sigh is the nervous system catching up on its oxygen intake.

Mindfulness is a great practice to implement when under stress.  Mindfulness is about being present with what is happening without judgement.  Often our stress will raise when we allow our thoughts to take us to the past and re-experience the event over and over (ruminate) or place our thoughts in the future.  We create a larger space mentally for the stress by giving energy to the past and future.  The purpose of mindfulness is to stay in the present with your feelings and emotions.  We then can react from a place of intelligence and kindness. (NPR)

RAIN is an acronym that can remind you how to practice mindfulness:

Recognize

Sense the feeling that you are having in the moment

Allow

Pause. Give space for the feelings.  It is okay to not be okay.

Investigate

Take a screening of your body internally and externally.  Can you identify places of pain or discomfort? What has your attention? What are you believing right now?  What thought patterns can you track? What do you need in this moment?

Nuture

Be kind to yourself.  Give grace to yourself.  Place a hand on your heart and make a positive affirmation statement.

The goal of RAIN is to practice mindfulness by being present with yourself which can create a shift in the way you feel.

 

Breathing technique: 4-7-8

Breathing techniques are great to have in your stress management tool kit.  They can be done any place without others even noticing.  This provides quick interventions during high moments of stress.  The 4-7-8 breathing technique is designed to reduce anxiety, help people fall asleep, manage cravings, and reduce anger (Medical News Today).

To start, get yourself into a comfortable sitting position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth.

  • Empty your lungs of air (exhale)
  • Breathe quietly through your nose for four seconds
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven seconds
  • Exhale with force through your mouth, pursing your lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for eight seconds
  • Repeat breathing exercise up to four times

As with anything, including mindfulness and breathing techniques, the more you practice it, the easier it becomes.  One will also see the positive effects of mindfulness and breathing techniques over time.  A good starting point is to practice these techniques twice a day – morning, and evening.  Giving your first thoughts and last thoughts to yourself.  Emily Ley has recently stated in her podcast “be where your feet are”.  Take the challenge to be fully present in body, mind, and spirit where your feet are and watch the stress dissolve.

National Healthcare Decisions Day

In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day today, we invite you to take a moment to think about what your wishes are in the event of a medical crisis. This past year, COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of discussing your wishes with your loved ones and documenting these wishes in the form of an advance directive.

Far too often, this conversation gets put on the back burner and people find themselves in a medical crisis with no plan. When this happens, it may be too late to receive the care you wanted.

So what is advance care planning?

It includes completing an advance directive, also known as a living will. This is a written statement that details your wishes for medical treatment should you be unable to communicate these to your doctor or healthcare provider yourself. Advance care planning also includes appointing a power of attorney (POA). This person will be responsible for making your healthcare decisions if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Why is it important?

These are important steps to take to ensure you receive the care you want in the event of a medical crisis. NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach says, “It’s also important to remember that having these thoughtful discussions with your family and documenting your wishes can be a gift to your loved ones should you become critically ill and unable to speak for yourself. Your priorities will be clear to them,”

So for yourself and for your loved ones, please take some time to come up with a plan, discuss it with your loved ones, and document it in an advance directive.

See below for some resources from the NHPCO that can help with your advance care planning: