Is My Senior Loved One’s Constipation a Symptom of Parkinson’s Disease?

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While most people are familiar with the most obvious signs of Parkinson’s disease, such as stiffness and tremors, there are actually several symptoms that begin to develop years before the classic signs are apparent. Constipation is a very common early symptom of Parkinson’s disease, but it’s often overlooked because constipation has many possible causes.

Parkinson’s Disease & Constipation

The neurological disease often begins with mild symptoms that worsen over time. While Parkinson’s is often considered a movement disorder, the truth is many non-motor functions can also be affected by the disease. Many of the early symptoms of Parkinson’s are subtle and go unnoticed, allowing the disease to progress for years before it’s diagnosed.

Parkinson’s disease causes dopamine-producing neurons to die. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates the autonomic nervous system. As the body’s supply of dopamine begins to decrease, the autonomic nervous system has difficulty controlling smooth muscle activity, including in the bowels and intestinal tract, which means the intestinal tract operates very slowly, leading to constipation.

Autonomic nervous system dysfunction caused by Parkinson’s can also cause other symptoms, including erectile dysfunction, the feeling of being too hot or too cold, low blood pressure when standing, and light-headedness.

Issues with constipation are just one way Parkinson’s disease can affect a senior’s overall health. There are a variety of age-related health conditions that can make it more challenging for seniors to live independently. However, many of the challenges they face can be easier to manage if their families opt for professional at-home care. Amarillo families can rely on expertly trained caregivers to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable while aging in place.

Other Symptoms of Parkinson’s

Constipation can be caused by many things, so family members shouldn’t automatically assume it’s an early sign of Parkinson’s. Other early Parkinson’ symptoms include:

  • A low, soft, or monotone voice
  • Loss of smell
  • Difficulty sleeping, with sudden movements during sleep
  • Small, cramped handwriting
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion in the arms
  • Persistent pain or numbness in the neck
  • A masklike facial expression

If your loved one is diagnosed with a serious condition such as Parkinson’s, he or she can continue to live at home with help from a highly trained, compassionate caregiver. Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.

Dietary Recommendations for Seniors with Parkinson’s

Constipation is common among aging adults with Parkinson’s because of issues with the bowel muscles associated with digestion. Eating high-fiber foods can help older adults naturally address constipation and promote healthy digestion. Oatmeal is a great source of dietary fiber, and it’s also rich in protein, which can boost muscle strength and offset Parkinson’s-related mobility issues. Bananas, split peas, lentils, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas are also great sources of dietary fiber.

Aging adults with Parkinson’s have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular issues, so eating heart-healthy foods is essential. In addition to limiting the consumption of foods high in fat and cholesterol, seniors with Parkinson’s should add fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, to their diets because they offer added protection against heart disease. These varieties of fish also contain high amounts of vitamin D and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, which offer a variety of brain-boosting benefits for seniors with Parkinson’s. 

Drinking plenty of water is essential for proper digestive function, and it’s one of the best ways for seniors with Parkinson’s to address constipation. Regularly drinking water is also beneficial for aging adults living with Parkinson’s disease because it boosts circulation, which is critical to delivering nutrients to the brain as well as the various joints and soft tissues involved in movement. 

Although seniors with Parkinson’s need to eat healthy, they may not be able to make nutritious meals without the help of family members and other caregivers. Performing daily tasks while simultaneously managing the symptoms of a serious illness can be challenging for seniors. The Amarillo live-in care experts at Home Care Assistance are available 24/7 to make sure your loved one has the care he or she needs to remain safe and comfortable while aging in place. For reliable in-home care services, contact us at (806) 803-9991 today.