As a care giver for a Parkinson’s patient, a thorough knowledge of first aid as well as specialist emergency care specifically for Parkinson’s disease is important to ensure the patient’s health and well being. Like with any patient, emergencies may arise and quick medical intervention is required on the scene before a medical doctor or emergency care workers arrive. With Parkinson’s patients, there has to be additional factors to consider due to the nature of the disease as well as other aspects like drug therapy in Parkinson’s disease.
In the latter stages of Parkinson’s disease, the patient may be more prone to injuries due to the lack of coordination and slowness in initiating movements (bradykinesia), thereby preventing rapid response measures to protect themselves in these situations. Emergencies may arise from falls, burns, choking, suffocation, drowning or complications related to other pre-existing diseases like diabetes or the use of medication.
Falls in Parkinson’s Disease
It is important that a Parkinson’s patient should be assisted in situations where a fall is more likely, as in the bath tub or shower and when negotiating any terrain which is uneven or unstable. In the event of a fall, the patient should not be moved immediately but rather assessed if there is any severe injuries like a bone fractures or breaks or spinal cord injury before the patient is helped back onto their feet. In the case of a severe injury, an emergency care worker or medical doctor is required on the scene and the patient should not be moved to prevent further complications and damage.
Burns most commonly occur as a result of boiling liquids, usually water or cooking oil and in the event of a burn, medical treatment should be sought. If the skin has not peeled away to expose underlying tissue with bleeding, then it is advisable to apply a cold application. Cold water is usually preferred as other cold applications, like ice cubes, may be too hard and apply additional pressure to an already injured area. A cold application like water absorbs any residual heat in the scalded area which may cause further tissue damage even though the cause of the burn has been removed. Do not use thick applications like petroleum jelly to soothe the burn area as this will retain residual heat in the affected area. Medical treatment is essential to prevent secondary bacterial infections which may be more likely to occur in the Parkinson’s patient due to possible immune deficiencies.
Breathing Difficulties, Choking and Suffocation
Parkinson’s patients often suffer with difficulty is swallowing in the end stages of the disease and this may increase the chance of choking. In the event that this occurs, it is important to know basic first aid techniques as well as CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) to ensure the patient’s survival. The airway should first be cleared of any blockage and CPR should be commenced if the patient is not breathing. The ability to administer CPR in any situation where breathing ceases, apart from just Parkinson’s patients, usually means the difference between life and death.
Chronic Conditions & Emergencies
Parkinson’s disease tends to occur in older persons, who are more likely to be suffering with chronic conditions like hypertension, heart disease or diabetes. Medical emergencies are always a possibility in these conditions even if it is managed appropriately with medication. Sudden changes in blood pressure, myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke or a diabetic ‘coma’ can occur and a good knowledge of first aid and emergency medical care will allow the care giver to sustain the patient till professional medical assistance can arrive.
Most first aid courses cover the basic techniques and measures required to effectively manage these emergencies should they arise. As a care giver for a Parkinson’s patient, it is advisable to undergo a first aid course and any other related weekend training to ensure a complete home care solution for the Parkinson’s patient. Other emergencies that may arise include overdoses of Parkinson’s drugs or drug interactions and a care giver should be familiar with all the medicines used by a Parkinson’s patient so as to inform emergency care workers of these possibilities.