Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disease that is characterized by body tremors, stiffness and difficulty moving. This disease is often difficult to diagnose in the elderly; thus, caregivers and family members should familiarize themselves with the symptoms of this disease.
Body Tremors and Stiffness
Body tremors and stiffness are two of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease in elderly people. At first, symptoms may not warrant concern. Patients may have trembling in one hand or feel stiff on one side of the body. These symptoms may be mistaken for arthritis or simply for aging. They don’t appear to cause the patient significant difficulty and may be more embarrassing to the patient than they are worrisome.
As the disease progresses, however, tremors and stiffness get worse. The patient may progressively find it more difficult to move and may suffer from slowness of movement. In addition, tremors usually get more severe, to the point where the patient finds it difficult to hold a pencil or to balance himself while walking. Patients who have advanced cases of Parkinson’s disease have a hard time performing basic activities such as dressing themselves in the morning or getting up from a bed or couch.
Parkinson’s affects the sufferer’s balance as well as their motor skills. Elderly patients often find it difficult to stay balanced while moving and may need to hold onto stationary objects or use a walker or cane to help them move. Parkinson’s Disease in elderly patients can cause them to fall frequently or choose to stay in one place because of problems with balance and coordination.
Elderly people’s posture worsens as Parkinson’s disease progresses. The neurological problems associated with Parkinson’s disease in elderly patients make it difficult to keep their balance; they often begin thrusting their head and neck forward to try to balance themselves as they move. This leads to a stooped or hunched over appearance. Again, this symptom may go unnoticed if caregivers or family members don’t know what to look for because many elderly people exhibit poor posture for other reasons.
Progressive Nature of Disease
Parkinson’s disease in elderly patients differs from other diseases elderly people may suffer from because of the disease’s progressive nature. Typically, symptoms begin on only one side of the body and then progress to both sides. For example, patients may initially experience tremors in their left hands or stiffness in their left legs. Gradually, however, the patient will experience tremors and stiffness all over the body. If a problem with stiffness or tremors seems to be spreading to a different area of the body than the one first affected, this is a strong sign that the person needs to be evaluated for Parkinson’s disease.
Some patients with Parkinson’s disease experience dementia similar to that found in Alzheimer’s patients. Not all patients develop this symptom, however. Some patients may develop other problems that are confused with dementia because they look similar. For example, patients may have difficulty swallowing or may become incontinent because of stiffness or tremors affecting their throat and bladder.