With all the information coming at us from our Neurologist, online resources and our Parkie friends, it can be challenging to keep it organized in our heads. We might know all the things that can help us, but it’s difficult to use that knowledge and apply it to our lives. But what if you had a checklist that you could refer to, that would ensure that you were doing everything in your power to slow the progression of your Parkinson’s disease? Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well here it is… a Parkinson’s annual checklist. Pick a month in which you could focus all your attention on checking off each item on this list and repeat it each year… I like April because it’s Parkinson’s awareness month… easy to remember… Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
- Physical exam by your primary provider/general practitioner.
-When you have Parkinson’s disease, you spend so much time with your Neurologist or Movement Disorder Specialist that you can forget that you still have the rest of your body to care for. Getting a yearly checkup to make sure that you don’t have underlying health issues that might have crept up when PD was distracting you. Also, it is a good time to update your physician about the current state of your Parkinson’s and any new medication changes.
-Parkies can experience visual issues, everything from dry eyes to double vision. These impairments can include spatial awareness that can impact gait and balance. Get your peeps examined by an Optometrist, so they may check the health of your eyes, or adjust your prescription as needed. And get this… there are some Optometrists who have experience with Neurologic issues… bonus!
-Did you know that just having Parkinson’s disease increases the risk of getting Melanoma? Yes, it’s true. It’s PD’s little gift for just for you. What’s even crazier? Parkies have a higher rate of Vitamin D deficiency. By getting a yearly skin checkup, your Dermatologist can look for moles that are looking a little moldy.
- Home safety evaluation:
-Time to take a look at your living situation. Check out the front of your home for loose rocks, uneven pavement and assure there aren’t any obstacles that might get in your way. Inside your beautiful home, assess your need for modifications. Do you need a grab bar in the shower? Are their any rugs or carpet that could trip you? Make sure your fire alarm and carbon monoxide detectors are up to code… I’ve always wanted to say that… sounds so professional. Remember, safety first and utilize home modifications, when necessary.
- Spring Cleaning:
Seeing as you’re evaluating your home for possible safety issues, now is the perfect time to simplify your life. Even if it isn’t spring, it’s time to clean. Take all your clothes, bedding, housewares and other knick-knacks that you are not using and have a garage sale or donate them. This might sound like a big project, so if you need to break your home down into smaller more manageable areas such as, closet, bathroom, kitchen… or you can always ask someone from your Wolfpack to help.
- Check medications and supplements for expiration dates.
-Scan your cabinet for medication that you don’t use anymore or has become outdated. Theses can include such as antibiotics, or pain medication Time to get rid of them. How do you dispose of medication you ask? The FDA’s website states:
“If no medicine take-back programs or DEA-authorized collectors are available in your area, and there are no specific disposal instructions on the label, such
as flushing as described below, you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:
- Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, kitty litter, or used coffee grounds;
- Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag
- Throw the container in your household trash;
Scratch out all personal information on the prescription label of your empty pill bottle or empty medicine packaging to make it unreadable, then dispose of the container.”
- Dental Exam:
-Proper mouth care is crucial for all people, but even more so for Parkies. Medications or salivary issues can trigger dry mouth, which can lead to bacteria infections and tooth decay. Be sure to your chompers cleaned and examined regularly by a professional to catch any early potential problems.
- Financial Affairs:
-Review your advanced directives, such as power of attorney and living will. It’s also important to review any wills or trusts in place to detail how you want your money or property distributed. I know it can be a creepy topic to discuss with your loved ones, but hey, we all gotta go sometime!
Other topics to revisit annually:
-There are a few areas that need to be reviewed to look for any noted changes that must be addressed:
- Exercise: What is your exercise routine? Does it need to be adjusted to challenge you more, or modified to ensure your safety? Do you even have a routine? Now, remember kids… exercise has been scientifically proven slow the progression of your Parkinson’s. If don’t have a routine already in place, I suggest you read this blog title “What’s your excuse?”
- Speech: Does your care partner ever say, “I can’t understand you… speak up”. Well this one is for you. Parkinson’s can impact your voice with symptoms such as speaking softly, mumbled or stuttering. If you recognize that your speaking has become an issue, you can get speech therapy or participate in the various Parkinson’s voice programs available.
- Work Schedule: If you are still working, you might want to take a look at the stress level or anxiety that comes with your employer’s expectations. Some Parkies just can’t maintain the work schedule that they had prior to diagnosis. You could actually be making your symptoms worse by not looking into modifications, such as decreasing your duties or hours (if that’s an option). With your Neurologist’s help, you could request accommodations such as the need to work a day from home or decrease your schedule to half a day.
- Driving: This one is a tricky topic. I know that driving equals independence and losing the ability to jump in your lowrider whenever you feel like it, can be devastating. But if you are experiencing slower reaction times, difficulty concentrating or vision issues, please, PLEASE don’t say, “ I’ve haven’t been in an accident so far”. It only takes one time to dramatically change the lives of you and others. Don’t ignore your family or friend’s concerns about your driving. Take the bus, walk if you’re able, or utilize companies such as Uber or Lyft for your travel needs. These apps on your phone are incredibly easy to use and have reasonably priced fares.
For more information on these topics:
“Oral Health and Parkinson’s disease”
“Getting your affairs in order”
“Elderly Home Safety Checklist”
“6 Signs It’s Time to Stop Driving”