How a Medical Alert Device Can Help Those with Parkinson’s Disease


There can be all sorts of reasons why a person chooses medical alert technology. Of course, one of the foremost reasons is peace of mind: you want the security of knowing that if you need help, it is literally one button alert away. And that peace of mind works for everyone, no matter the situation. But for some, the need for help just one button press away feels imperative. That can be the case with those who have progressive or degenerative conditions, like Parkinson’s disease.

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million people in the United States are living with Parkinson’s. By 2030, that number is expected to grow to 1.2 million. About 60,000 people are newly diagnosed each year. And though Parkinson’s usually shows up somewhere over the age of 60, young-onset Parkinson’s disease can happen – Michael J. Fox, the dynamic actor who has become a strong advocate for Parkinson’s research through The Michael J. Fox Foundation, was diagnosed at the age of 29.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

According to The Mayo Clinic, Parkinson’s is “a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement.” That’s a very broad definition, as Parkinson’s can include a wide variety of issues, from barely noticeable tremors and slower movements to the significant trembling often seen in those in an advanced stage of the disease.

The symptoms of Parkinson’s usually begin very gradually, often with a small tremor in the hand or feeling stiffness in the muscles. Early stages might include movements that are slower than usual, little expression on the face, soft and slurred speech, or even changes in larger movements we don’t really think about that often, such as swinging your arms as you walk.

What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?

We know the basics of why Parkinson’s disease happens. Neurons in the brain gradually break down or die, and that can lead to a loss of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical messenger in your brain. As dopamine starts to diminish, it leads to abnormal brain activity, which in term leads to impaired movement, among other problems.

But what causes it? Scientists aren’t sure yet, but they do know that a variety of risk factors come into play that could lead to the disease. These can include[1]:

·         Environmental triggers. Some toxins and environmental factors might increase the risk of Parkinson’s. This can include ongoing exposure to pesticides and herbicides.

·         Genetics. If you have a family member who is affected by Parkinson’s, your odds of developing the disease go up. There are some specific mutations in genes that suggest a person could be at higher risk for developing Parkinson’s.

·         Lewy bodies. These tiny clumps of substances in brain cells can be a clear sign of Parkinson’s.

·         A certain protein in Lewy bodies. A protein called alpha-synuclein might be present in Lewy bodies. While it is a natural protein, in Lewy bodies it presents in a clumped form that the cells can’t break down.

·         Age and gender. Parkinson’s usually begins later in life; the typical age is around 60. It’s relatively rare in younger individuals. Men are about 1.5 times more likely to develop the disease than women[2].

What are the Signs of Parkinson’s Disease?

Early signs of Parkinson’s disease can be slight enough to go unnoticed for a long time. They might include very small tremors, slower movements, muscle aches or limited range of motion, or simply feeling as though you are a little more “clumsy” lately. You might fall down more easily, often without warning. This might be enough to make you start thinking about medical alert systems with fall detection – just in case.

As the disease progresses, the issues can get worse. Here’s what often happens[3]:

  • Tremors. This hallmark of Parkinson’s often begins in your hands or fingers. Your hand may tremble when at rest. You might also notice something called a “pill-rolling tremor,” where you rub your thumb and forefinger together as if you were rolling a pill between them. The tremors become worse as the disease progresses and extend out to your limbs.
  • Tight muscles. Stiff muscles can lead to aching and pain. The stiffness can be bad enough to limit your range of motion or make certain movements painful.

·         Balance problems. As your body begins to suffer from tremors and tighter muscles, you might notice problems with balance. Perhaps you have to hold onto something to walk safely across the floor.

·         Stooped posture. Your posture might become stooped, especially if you are dealing with balance problems and rigid muscles as well.

·         Movements slow down. Slowed movement, also known as bradykinesia (and other related terms[4]) can begin to affect your day-to-day life. For example, it might take longer to stand up from a seated position or to walk across a room. Fine motor movements, such as opening up a can of soup, can take more energy.

·         Changes in speech. Your speech might become a monotone, with few inflections, and you might speak softly, slur, hesitate before speaking, or begin speaking more quickly than usual.

·         Changes in writing. Where words once flowed easily from your pen, you might suddenly notice that your writing isn’t as clear as it used to be, the letters seem smaller, and you make more mistakes.

·         Issues with automatic movements. You might notice that you have trouble with things that you never had to think about before, such as smiling or blinking.

·         Problems with fine motor skills. Combine all of these issues above and suddenly, your ability to use your fine motor skills – like pouring liquid into a measuring spoon or coloring within the lines of a picture – can feel impossible.

As these things happen, it is often one side of the body that is affected first. The disease tends to present symptoms that are worse on that side of the body as it progresses, even as the rest of the body is also affected. These symptoms can be tough enough to deal with, but when they happen differently on each side of the body, they can throw your balance into serious disarray. That means that an emergency response solution, especially one with fall prevention alarms, becomes more important than ever.

Other Complications with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease can lead to other problems as well. These can include (but aren’t limited to)[5]:

·         Cognitive issues. Dementia can go hand-in-hand with Parkinson’s, but usually only in the later stages of the disease.

·         Emotional changes. You might experience depression, fear and anxiety about your diagnosis, or a loss of motivation to carry forward.

·         Issues with chewing, eating, and swallowing. Your ability to swallow might become slow and difficult. Chewing might become difficult in the later stages. You might also become more prone to choking.

·         Problems with sleeping. Your sleep schedule might become entirely out of whack, or you might experience rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder.

·         Sexual dysfunction. Sexual desire or performance might suffer throughout the stages of Parkinson’s.

·         Problems with smell. It might become tough to identify certain odors, tell the difference between odors, or even smell at all.

·         Aches and pains. You might notice a full-body ache or sometimes, significant and targeted pain in one area of the body for no apparent reason.

·         Bathroom problems. As your digestive tract slows down, you might suffer constipation. The same is true with urinating, as it might become difficult; on the other hand, you might face incontinence.

·         Blood pressure problems. “Orthostatic hypotension” is a fancy way of saying you might feel lightheaded when you stand up, thanks to a sudden drop in your blood pressure.

·         Serious fatigue. You might suffer from very low energy and fatigue, the kind that makes it tough to do much of anything later in the day.

Why a Medical Alert Pendant is a Good Idea

Parkinson’s disease can slowly impact a person’s mobility or independence. As it becomes tougher to move around, it becomes more likely that a person with Parkinson’s could suffer mobility issues, including sudden falls. That’s why a fall detection device for seniors is an excellent idea. Though you might still be able to press the button after you take a tumble, there is the chance that you might feel too disoriented by the fall to press the button immediately. That’s where fall detection comes in. Sensors in the pendant measure the direction and speed of the motion, so it can detect with accuracy that you have fallen, and automatically send an alert so the 24/7/365 monitoring center get in touch to check to make sure you’re ok.

The Alert1 Command Center is staffed around the clock with professionals who know just how to help you if an emergency happens. Once they are on the line with you, they will determine what you need, whether it’s a call to 911 for emergency services or simply a call to a neighbor or family member who can come to your aid. Then they will stay on the line with you until they are certain help has arrived and you are in good hands.

This is vitally important for those who have Parkinson’s. There could be many reasons to get in touch with the Command Center that concern things other than falls, such as a sudden change in mobility – being unable to get around – dealing with the confusion cognitive changes can bring, a sudden drop in blood pressure that makes you feel faint or disoriented, or even having trouble getting up from your seat. Since Alert1 never charges for multiple button pushes or “false alarms,” you have the peace of mind of knowing that no emergency is too “small” for a press of that button. We’re here to help you, no matter what the situation might be.

Parkinson’s brings many changes to your life and that of your loved ones. Peace of mind can help make this new journey more manageable. The safety and security of a medical alert system with a fall sensor means one less thing to worry about for those who have Parkinson’s and those caring for seniors who have it. Reach out today to learn how we can make this difficult diagnosis a bit easier for you.

And by the way: April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Share this blog post with someone you love. Spread the word and help with the research that is so necessary to understand, control, and end Parkinson’s disease.