Susan had just celebrated her 61st birthday with her husband, Bob, daughter and close friends when she got the call that would change their lives forever. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system and progresses over time.
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, Susan is one of an estimated 1 million Americans currently living with the disease and, because Parkinson’s is more common in people over the age of 60, the incidence of diagnosis it is expected to rise as baby boomers age.
Initially, Susan barely noticed any changes in her motor skills and was determined to live life to the fullest. Though she and Bob knew that the disease would eventually progress to the point where Susan would need more assistance and care, they decided they would wait to put any concrete plans in place.
“My Fall Was Our Wake-Up Call”
Two years later, Susan and Bob were beginning to struggle. Susan’s appetite had disappeared, despite Bob’s efforts to prepare enticing meals, and she was losing weight. Her mobility had been impacted to the point where it was no longer safe for her to drive. With her husband working full-time and their daughter in graduate school two hours away, Susan was feeling lonely and depressed by her loss of independence.
Susan was not sleeping well and had begun losing her balance more frequently. Suddenly, Susan had a terrible fall on her backyard patio and had to be hospitalized during her recovery.
Caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s in later stages can be an especially challenging job, creating a juggling act for family caregivers as they balance caregiving with work and other responsibilities. The hospital stay brought the reality of Susan’s symptoms to light, and the family felt overwhelmed and fearful.
Susan says, “My fall was our wake-up call that we weren’t quite as prepared as we had thought for my condition—I needed some help so my husband could continue to work and my daughter could focus on her graduate program.”
The Value of Comprehensive Support
The hospital referred Susan and Bob to Seniors At Home and they were soon introduced to Kate Blank, LCSW, a Care Manager.
Kate says, “Parkinson’s affects so many aspects of a person’s life and their family’s lives. My job is to step-in and address needs from every angle, assisting with everything from day-to-day care, to counseling and emotional support, to advocacy and long-term planning.”
Kate started with performing a home safety evaluation with Susan’s particular limitations in mind and made recommendations. At first Susan’s landlord refused to pay for grab bars and other safety equipment to be installed in the home, but Kate and her team advocated on Susan’s behalf until the property owner agreed.
Kate arranged for a Seniors At Home caregiver—a highly trained professional who has worked with clients with ambulation and mobility challenges—to provide daily care while Susan recovered.
Susan’s family were especially relieved to find out that their family was eligible for financial help in covering the cost of home care because of a short-term grant Seniors At Home had received from the Parkinson’s Foundation. Knowing Susan was in good hands, Bob was afforded some much-needed respite, and was soon able to return to work.
Kate also connected Susan with Seniors At Home’s Physical Therapy and Rehab Program, knowing that physical therapy and exercise could help Susan manage some of her symptoms and even improve her balance. Susan regained confidence knowing she could reduce her chances of another dangerous fall.
While the primary symptoms of Parkinson’s are physical, more holistic support is often needed to bolster quality of life. Fear and anxiety often come with the progression of the disease, and an estimated 40% of people living with Parkinson’s develop depression (caregiver.org).
Losing her driver’s license was making Susan feel frustrated and isolated, so Kate arranged for Susan to speak to a therapist through Seniors At Home’s counseling services.
Kate says, “Providing emotional support is key when caring for clients who have Parkinson’s, which often comes with some fear and anxiety. Counseling provides a safe space for the individual or family to explore their thoughts and feelings.”
A Brighter Future
Six months later, Susan has recovered from her hospitalization and is moving more independently. With help from a part-time caregiver, Susan is able to go out more to visit friends, run errands, and even visit her daughter.
The family has worked with Kate to develop some longer-term plans to ensure that Susan will have the care she needs now, and in the future. The family knows they can always call on Kate when any new challenges or needs arise, and that ongoing relationship gives them peace of mind.
“Care management is not a one-time service,” Kate says. “We are on board with our clients as time goes on and they know we are here for them whenever they need us.”
To learn more about Care Management or the various ways Seniors At Home supports individuals with Parkinson’s, call 415-449-3700 or contact us online.