What My Mom Taught Me About Parkinson’s Disease That My Nursing Degree Didn’t

Updated on February 11, 2017
Jody Zoey and Ruth pic
Jody, Zoey and Ruth

By Jody Wade, LPN

Most family members have no experience or training in caring for a loved one. As a long-time in-home nurse, who frequently interacts with Parkinson’s disease patients and their families, I thought I knew exactly what to expect when my mom, Ruth, was diagnosed with the disease in 2007. For me, it was second nature when I began to realize my mom was experiencing some of the telltale symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as rigidity and slowness of movement, before her neurologist confirmed the diagnosis. However, as my mom’s disease progressed I learned even I was unaware of a very common course of the disease.

As a nurse, one of my roles is to explain what patients and their families can expect as the disease takes its toll. Parkinson’s disease, which affects one million Americans, is a chronic and progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Common motor symptoms include tremors, limb stiffness, slowness of movement, and impaired balance and coordination.

As a daughter, I never expected that I would become a caregiver for my mom, which is completely different than caring for one of my patients. At first, my mom initially managed her condition fairly well using her walker and staying in touch with her family and friends. But about a year after my mom’s diagnosis she told me she saw a group of people doing Tai Chi in her backyard every morning, which sounded odd, and claimed to see mice in her home, though an exterminator could find no evidence of any rodents. She also worried excessively about her grandchildren’s safety in her home, when in reality they were never there.

At the time, I believed my mom since these events sounded like things that could actually take place. What grandmother wouldn’t worry about her grandchildren’s safety? But as the visions became more frequent, I eventually realized that my mom was experiencing hallucinations and delusions.

Even though I have had plenty of experience working with patients with Parkinson’s disease, it became frustrating and stressful to care for my mom because I couldn’t always convince her that the visions she saw weren’t real. My mom was often scared of the hallucinations and delusions and they also made her mad because she felt like the visions and the people she saw invaded her privacy. To make her feel safe at night, my daughters and I would take turns sleeping in my mom’s home to reassure her. The hallucinations and delusions started to take a toll not only on her life but on mine as well.

What many people don’t know, including myself at the time, is that hallucinations and delusions are hallmark symptoms of Parkinson’s disease psychosis (PDP), a non-motor complication of Parkinson’s disease affecting more than half of patients over the course of their disease. While PDP is considered a common aspect it is largely undetected as only 10-20 percent of patients and their families ever report hallucinations and delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease to their doctors.

Jody and Ruth pic e1486835261962Unfortunately, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease psychosis, but there is one FDA approved medication approved to treat hallucinations and delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease. After discussing my mom’s symptoms with her movement disorder specialist, she was invited to participate in a clinical trial for this medication. I would proud of my mom for deciding to participating, mostly because she wanted to help others, and possibly herself, living with this aspect of Parkinson’s disease.

About a month on the medicine, my family and I began to notice a change in my mom. Her hallucinations seemed to happen less frequently and when she did have rare vision she understood that was she was seeing was not real. 

My mom’s journey with PDP has taught me there is a large knowledge gap when it comes to PDP awareness in the healthcare space. I’m sharing my story in the hopes of reaching other caregivers in similar situations to let them know they are not alone and the importance of having an open dialogue with your doctor about all symptoms to ensure your loved one is getting the care they need.

For more information about the common signs of hallucinations and delusions your loved one may be experiencing and treatment options, visit http://caremap.parkinson.org/ 


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2 thoughts on “What My Mom Taught Me About Parkinson’s Disease That My Nursing Degree Didn’t”

  1. Speaking of doctors,there was one doctor who really helped me and my family
    I was diagnose of Parkinson diseaes over a year which my family doctor told me there is no cure but it can only be controled. Ever since then i have been running heather scepter looking for a solution to my problem because i was going to lose my Job if i dont get better, until i ran into this online testimony of Jennifer Snoody who have been cured of COPD by this herbal centre in Johannesburg (abumereherbalcentre @gmail . com), i immediately contacted them via their email, to God be thy glory i bought this Parkinson herbal remedy and was cured within three weeks of usage, at last this is a break through for all parkinson patients contact this herbal centre via their email or website: abumereherbalcentre @ gmail . com/ www . abumereherbalcentre . simplesite . com

  2. My Parkinsons disease symptoms started at the age of 54. My fingers on my left hand were stiff and were difficult to move. People noticed that my walk was not normal, I was often asked did I hurt. It was difficult getting up from` a chair and getting out of a car. I was diagnosed a year later, all medications my doctor prescribed did more harm than good. In November, 2016 I started on NewLife Herbal Clinic Parkinson disease natural herbal remedy treatment, my parkinsons symptoms including tremors, slowed movement, shaking deteriorated over the first 9 weeks of the PD herbal formula usage, i am now 59 with no trace of Parkinsons or tremors, visit the clinic website www. newlifeherbalclinic. com or email info @ newlifeherbalclinic. com. The PD herbal formula helped me in a way i just didn’t imagine, this is a breakthrough for all parkinsons disease patients.

    George Herrmann
    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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