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Progression of Parkinson's


It is difficult to estimate how quickly or slowly Parkinson’s will progress in each person. Each person with Parkinson’s is unique and each person may experience different symptoms. However, since Parkinson’s is a progressive condition, symptoms will worsen over time and new ones may appear. It may progress more quickly in people who are older when the symptoms first begin and less quickly when the main symptom is tremor, especially when it starts on one side.

While medications can alleviate the symptoms, they do not slow the progression of Parkinson’s. As the symptoms change, medications will need to be adjusted. As the disease progresses, non-motor symptoms may also appear, such as depression, difficulty swallowing, sexual problems or cognitive changes. If you any questions, feel free to visit our local office page, to find help near you today.

Signs that indicate Parkinson’s has progressed
Although everyone is different, there are signs that Parkinson’s is progressing. You may find that it takes longer or more effort to perform daily activities such as getting dressed. Tremor on one side of your body may now appear on both sides. You may notice significant changes in the way you walk, from slowness to a shuffle. Symptoms may be worse one day and not the next. You may notice that you need to take your medications more frequently. Higher doses or a combination of medications may be necessary to control symptoms.

It is important to be aware of changes and tell your doctor when you notice them. Ask your care partner or family if they have noticed changes, such as difficulty hearing you talk. Involve health care professionals, such as speech pathologists or home care workers to help you manage the daily challenges of Parkinson’s.

Life Expectancy
Depending upon your age of onset, how you manage the symptoms, and your general health, you can live an active life with Parkinson’s. In most cases, one’s life is not shortened. However, as you age and as the disease progresses, there will be increased risks. For example, impaired balance can lead to falls; swallowing problems, if not managed, can lead to pneumonia. Parkinson’s is known as a chronic (long term) condition that will require ongoing monitoring and management to maintain one’s quality of life.

Other health conditions
Parkinson’s will not exclude you from the possibility of developing other health concerns. Distinguishing between normal aging, Parkinson’s symptoms and those of another condition can be challenging. For example, memory or concentration changes can be a side effect of medications, a non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s or a separate condition. Ensure you are working with health care professionals who are knowledgeable about Parkinson’s, especially with the need to follow your medication routine. It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle (e.g., good nutrition, exercise, staying active and socially engaged).

Plan for the future
Take stock of your life and communicate with those who are close to you (care partner, family, friends).

Work options. Discuss options with your employer, such as adaptive technology or reduced work load. If it becomes necessary, find out if retiring early is an option. Many people who reduce their workloads find they are able to focus on managing their Parkinson’s (i.e., more time to keep physically fit).

Finances. Will your benefit/medical plan cover drugs and other expenses, such as speech therapy? Do you have a retirement and/or pension plan? Do you qualify for disability insurance or the disability tax credit? Contact disability professionals before reducing your work hours, to determine if this will affect the amount of eligible funding.

Legal and health planning issues. Discuss power of attorney and advance care planning with your family now. Discuss what quality of life means for you. By talking about these issues now, you can impact your care in the future. (*Information on advance care planning varies from province to province. Contact your local Parkinson Society for appropriate resources.)

Care issues. Seek the care of a neurologist or movement disorder specialist. Together you can develop a care plan that will meet your needs. Monitor your symptoms and communicate any changes so adjustments to medications can be made.

Personal choices. As Parkinson’s progresses, you will be faced with making choices about your life. For instance, symptoms and medications can affect your ability to drive safely. Knowing this may happen and planning for it can make the decision easier. You may choose to stop driving. 

Remember, reducing stress in your life will make a difference. Join a Parkinson support group. Some people find yoga and tai chi helpful. Humour can also be a great stress reducer. Staying as active as possible and maintaining a positive attitude is important. Many people find that a creative activity such as painting, singing, playing an instrument, dancing or writing poetry helps. Even if Parkinson’s affects your balance, you can still have a balanced life. 

PDFInformation Sheet on the Progression of Parkinson's Disease