Stress Can Contribute to Parkinson’s Disease, Research Reveals

by Lois Etienne on December 17, 2010

in Caregiver Support,Senior Health and Safety

Boomer-Daughter-Embracing-MotherQ.   I’m very concerned about my 75-year-old mother, a full-time caregiver to my dad, who has been an invalid for years. I’ve been trying to convince her to get additional help because I’m worried the stress will begin to take its toll on her. What can happen with too much stress? And any suggestions on how I can help her?

There’s much ongoing research about the devastating effects of stress on family caregivers. You only need to Google search “caregiver stress” to find the latest.

Most people are aware that living a stressful lifestyle can take its toll, making us age faster and become more susceptible to illness. According to a Northwestern Medicine study published in the journal Nature, researchers find when dopamine-releasing neurons become stressed out they die, which causes Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the United States, second only to Alzheimer’s disease.

“Why this small group of neurons dies in Parkinson’s disease is the core question we struggled with,” says lead author D. James Surmeier, the Nathan Smith Davis Professor and chair of physiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The good news is preclinical research shows drug therapy can help control this stress.

Your mother also should consider asking for help at home. Sometimes family caregivers become so entrenched in caring for their loved ones that it becomes difficult for them to let go. Do what you can to ease your mother away from home. If you or another family member can care for your dad a few hours a week so that she can get away with a friend or even to the mall, that will go a long way to rejuvenate her. Let your mom know that stress could be having negative effects on her health; if she gets sick she will be of no help to your father.

Or consider a professional caregiving service such as Home Instead Senior Care. Respite care is among the most valuable services that Home Instead Senior Care provides.

We can provide a variety of in home care duties including meal preparation, light housekeeping, grocery shopping, medication reminders and errands – all tasks that could provide you and your family with relief from the daily rigors of caregiving.

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