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Dispelling common Parkinson's disease myths

June 13, 2013

An estimated 1 million people in the U.S. have Parkinson's disease, with approximately 60,000 people receiving a diagnosis each year, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. The condition can significantly threaten seniors' independence, and despite its prevalence among the senior living community, there are a number of misconceptions. However, dispelling some of these untruths can not only change the perception of those with Parkinson's, it may also help them retain their independence as they grow older, notes

More than medication
It's easy to assume that medical intervention is the only way for those with Parkinson's to treat their symptoms. While certain drugs have proven to be particularly effective at reducing common symptoms - tremors, rigidity and mood disorders, among others - there are also certain lifestyle changes and alternative remedies that can have a positive impact on Parkinson's. According to the Mayo Clinic, eating a healthy diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids is one of the best non-medical treatment options. 

Certain exercises have proven to be particularly effective as well, including tai chi. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that tai chi had a significant impact on helping Parkinson's patients improve their balance and reduce their risk of falling.

An end to independence
There's a common misconception that independent living is impossible for older adults with Parkinson's, especially when the illness reaches its advanced stages. This is not always necessarily the case, because with the correct approach there is no reason that Parkinson's patients can't maintain a high level of independence, notes ThirdAge. In addition to following traditional steps for a healthy lifestyle for seniors, those with Parkinson's can help maintain their independence through the use of assisted living services which can help take care of tasks such as homemaking and medication management. 

A solitary disease
People with Parkinson's do not have to go it alone, as there are many supportive services out there to help them cope with the frustration, depression and stress that often accompany managing a chronic condition, notes the Mayo Clinic. Support groups are a safe place for Parkinson's patients  to discuss their challenges with people who understand what they are going through. These groups also make it possible for patients to learn about new therapies that could improve symptoms.