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Caregiver’s Day Off Program Assists Parkinson’s Family Caregivers

Are you a family caregiver for someone living with Parkinson’s Disease? Do you know about the “Caregivers Day Off” program? Caregiver’s Day Off, sponsored by the Washington Chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, serves families coping with Parkinson’s in King, Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit, and Island counties. With A Little Help is proud to be one of three local home health agencies trusted to support and serve Parkinson’s family caregivers through the program which sponsors 20 hours of free professional care annually.

Caregiver’s Day Off started five years ago and currently serves 57 non-professional family caregivers by giving them time to revitalize while professional caregivers step in to meet their loved one’s needs. “The caregivers are so knowledgeable, professional, and courteous. They are so catering to my husband—they’re more than willing to go for a ride to his favorite restaurant, or just simply sit and talk with him, he loves it! I didn’t realize how beneficial it would be for both of us!” writes a family caregiver, Michelle C. who is enrolled in the program.

Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive neurological movement disorder with no known cure, can require variable levels of care. People affected may go through stages slowly and, at times, need little care or, in progressed stages, require 24 hour support. Parkinson’s onset can occur in juveniles and young adults but most often develops after the age of 60. Many people live years with Parkinson’s not knowing at times what’s wrong because the disease is hard to diagnose. According to the National Institute of Health’s Senior Health website, “There are currently no blood, or laboratory tests to diagnose sporadic Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosis is based on a person’s medical history and a neurological examination, but the disease can be difficult to diagnose accurately.” Unknowns that can precede a definitive Parkinson’s diagnosis add stress for everyone involved increasing the importance for family caregivers to find time to rest and rejuvenate. Caregivers must maintain balance and health while supporting their loved one through years of coping with the disease.

Parkinson’s affects many Washington families. How many? Difficulty diagnosing the disease complicates statistical evaluation. “The best estimates I have heard from experts is that there are 15,000 people living with Parkinson’s Disease in Washington, and 30,000 in the Pacific Northwest,” said Kristi Murphy, Executive Director of the Washington Chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association. Though Greater Seattle is home to many prominent Parkinson’s research organizations none are charged with collecting data on specific numbers of people diagnosed.

Caregiver’s Day Off is part of several programs that support Parkinson’s patients and their families. The Taxi Voucher program serves 220 people living with Parkinson’s who can no longer drive. Joan W, a Taxi Voucher recipient explained, “The APDA (American Parkinson’s Disease Association) Taxi Voucher Program is my safety net. It allows me to get to the doctor when I am having a crisis, or connect with friends when I am feeling isolated.” In addition, the Washington Chapter of the APDA sponsors seven therapist-led support groups in the Greater Seattle Area. These groups help patients, couples, and families cope with Parkinson’s disease including young onset and Parkinson’s Plus conditions such as Multiple System Atrophy.

If you’d like to support families struggling with Parkinson’s disease consider joining the Second Annual Optimism Walk coming up on Sunday, September 14th. Lift awareness and let families know that you care with just three hours of your time or get involved with the Washington Chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association through ongoing volunteerism or donations. If you’re a family caregiver for someone living with Parkinson’s —get connected with the Caregiver’s Day Off program!

For more information on Parkinson’s disease or how you can help Parkinson’s individuals and families visit the Washington Chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association online or email: info@nullwaparkinsons.org

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