5 Ways to Help a Family Member With Parkinson's Disease

May 7th 2016

A diagnosis of Parkinson's disease changes life not only for the patient, but also for everyone around him. The more support you can get in your new role as a caregiver for a loved one with Parkinson's, the better able you are to support him.

Encourage Exercise

Encourage your loved one to exercise, since exercise helps Parkinson's patients stay positive while boosting their strength, balance and motor skills. Exercise also appears to boost production of dopamine, a chemical lacking in the brains of Parkinson's patients. Physical flexibility is also key to maintaining function with Parkinson's, so join with your loved one in stretching exercises or make arrangements for yoga, dance or Pilates classes with instructors who understand the special needs of Parkinson's patients. Always check with a medical professional before starting something new.

Be Flexible

The symptoms of Parkinson's disease can change not only weekly or monthly, but even from day to day and hour to hour. Sometimes Parkinson's patients show a tendency toward impulsive behavior, and you may have to establish boundaries, which can be very difficult, or go with the flow as things change frequently. In this constantly changing environment, you can help by combining a flexible attitude with an organizational structure. Help your loved one by creating charts and calendars to keep track of medications, doctor's visits and therapy appointments.

Encourage Normal Activities

Encourage your family member by keeping up normal activities as much as possible. Don't do things for him just because you can do them faster; let him have some autonomy over his own daily life. Instead of stepping in to do something for your family member, ask what he'd like help with.

Get Educated

When your family member has Parkinson's, you have a lot to learn about the disease and its progression. Don't stop there, however. Learn about your loved one's insurance coverage, find out what treatments and medications it does and doesn't cover, and look for different coverage if possible and needed. Become an advocate for your family member to make sure he gets the help he needs.

Participate in Therapy

Many Parkinson's patients benefit greatly from physical therapy to help improve posture and balance. Attend therapy sessions with your family member so you understand what changes you can make around the house to make life easier and what types of exercises he can do at home. Look into occupational therapy to help your loved one handle the tasks of daily life. If your spouse has Parkinson's, consider attending marriage therapy as well to talk through the changes and difficulties that this disease is bringing into your life.


Caring for a family member who has Parkinson's disease can seem overwhelming. Because the symptoms of Parkinson's disease change greatly over time, the help that your family member needs at the beginning of the disease is likely to be vastly different than the help needed later. However, while the specific tasks involved in helping may change, the general principles stay the same throughout the progression of the disease.

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