The challenge for individuals with Parkinson’s disease is to remain as independent as possible. For some people, this means doing everything themselves, even if it takes longer. For others, varying amounts of assistance are needed.
The need for assistance often fluctuates throughout the day and may depend on how well the medications are working at a specific time. In the “on” medication state, some people are fully functional and mobile, but in the “off” state, they may require assistance for daily activities such as dressing, eating and walking.
It is important for family members to recognize the variable and sometimes unpredictable nature of Parkinson’s disease disability. By staying alert and offering help when it is needed, family members can find the right balance between protecting the person with Parkinson’s and encouraging independence.
Of course, some people insist on attempting things they should not, such as climbing ladders despite balance impairment, or carrying heavy bags of groceries. Handling these situations requires judgment and tact, and it is important to reach agreement among the family members about setting reasonable limits. Some people who no longer wish to perform tasks of daily living may actually be suffering from depression and apathy. It is important that this problem be recognized as separate from the physical challenges of Parkinson’s disease. If depression is present, it should be discussed with the treating neurologist, since medication or therapy may be necessary.