Parkinson’s disease is a motor system disorder that affects approximately one percent of seniors over age 60. The actual number of seniors with Parkinson’s disease may be even higher, as there are currently no applicable medical tests and the disease is difficult to diagnose.
The primary symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include impaired balance, muscle stiffness, slow movement, and trembling. Patients may also experience depression, sleep disruptions, and difficulty with chewing and swallowing.
Considering how these symptoms make it difficult to handle daily living activities like eating, bathing, grooming, dressing, and moving around, Parkinson’s patients often require a greater level of long term care.
The good news is that Parkinson’s patients don’t always require skilled nursing care. Assisted living care will often suffice, though you’ll need to ensure that the assisted living facility offers specialized care for Parkinson’s patients.
What is assisted living?
Assisted living facilities are intended to bridge the gap between home health care and skilled nursing homes. These long term care facilities aim to provide assistance with daily living activities while offering seniors a greater measure of independence than you’ll find in a nursing home.
That usually means living in an independent apartment with 24-hour on-call assistance and housekeeping, though housing accommodations and the level of service sometimes varies.
Assisted living communities strive to foster an active senior community through regular social activities. They promote physical wellness through daily fitness classes, and provide medication management in coordination with the senior’s healthcare providers.
Specialized Assisted Living Care For Parkinson’s Patients
Due to the advanced care needs of Parkinson’s patients, it’s best to seek out an assisted living facility that specializes in Parkinson’s care. Some assisted living facilities exclusively specialize in Parkinson’s and memory care, while others offer a dedicated unit or wing that provides specialty care for residents with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
Whether you’re seeking a dedicated Parkinson’s/memory care facility or an assisted living community with a specialty unit, you’ll want to choose a reputable facility that offers the following services:
- 24-hour assistance with daily living activities
- Emergency monitoring
- Medication management
- Onsite medical services and rehabilitation professionals
- Specially trained staff
While all of these are important, the specially trained staff is perhaps the most significant. The staff must be trained on how to identify the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, as well as how to assist patients with the disease.
Parkinson’s patients require a higher level of specialized care in order to thrive, so it’s critical that the staff has ample experience assisting seniors with Parkinson’s disease.
To learn more about the difference between memory care and assisted living, and which may be the better option of your family, click here.
How to Choose an Assisted Living Facility for Parkinson’s Patients
Before you begin your search for an assisted living facility, talk to the senior’s physician about their special needs. The physician may not be permitted to share private medical information (unless you have a medical power of attorney), but he or she should be able to offer guidance on the patient’s current and future care needs.
Once you have a firm idea of the level of care that the Parkinson’s patient requires, it simply becomes a matter of narrowing down a list of assisted living facilities that offer that level of care. We recommend compiling a list of several qualifying facilities, then visiting the facilities and speaking with the staff to determine the best fit for the senior in question.
Most assisted living facilities allow prospective residents to spend the day at their facility to assess the fit in person, with some communities even allowing a weekend stay to enjoy the full experience. You’ll need to exercise caution with such extended visits when the Parkinson’s patient is experiencing memory issues as the new environment may be overwhelming, but it’s a great way to “test out” your favorite community to ensure it’s a good fit.
As you’re doing your due diligence speaking with the community director and staff, don’t be afraid to ask direct questions about how they are qualified to care for Parkinson’s patients. Specialized facilities and units often follow a popular, medically-backed care/treatment strategy, which you can further research online.
How much does long term care for Parkinson’s patients cost?
According to the National Center for Assisted Living, the average cost of assisted living care in the United States is $48,000. That’s roughly the same cost as home health care, and about half the cost of skilled nursing facilities.
In Arizona, the average annual cost is actually a little less than the national average. Genworth places the median annual cost of assisted living care in Arizona at $45,600.
Expect specialized care for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and dementia to cost a little more. While the final cost varies significantly based on the region and facility, specialized care may cost an extra $1,000 per month, or $12,000 per year — placing the total cost closer to $60,000 per year.
Alternatives to Assisted Living Care for Parkinson’s Patients
Assisted living care is an excellent form of long term care for Parkinson’s patients, but it’s not the only form of care at your disposal. The most common alternative to assisted living facilities is in-home health care, which can range from a full-time live-in nurse to regular visits from a registered nurse and rehabilitation specialists.
In severe cases where Parkinson’s patients require 24/7 medical monitoring, it may become necessary to transfer from an assisted living facility to a skilled nursing home.
If the Parkinson’s patient in question is expected to require skilled nursing care in the near future, it may be wise to choose an assisted living community that also offers a skilled nursing unit. Transferring internally within a community is much easier than an external transfer, and it allows the senior to remain in the community where they’ve already made social connections.
FAQs about Assisted Living for Parkinson’s Patients
Q: Can someone with Parkinson’s get long term care insurance?
After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it’s extremely difficult for the patient to obtain long term care insurance. Most applications are denied by the insurer, and those that are approved will require a hefty premium.
In such cases, it’s often better for the caregiver to apply for long term care insurance instead. For more information about long term care insurance policies for Parkinson’s patients and caregivers, read this helpful article from the Parkinson’s Foundation.
Q: Does Parkinson’s disease qualify for disability?
Under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Blue Book, Parkinson’s disease may qualify an individual for disability benefits when certain diagnostic criteria are met and documented.
Q: Does Medicare cover in home care for Parkinson’s disease?
Medicare covers medical care for Parkinson’s patients, but it does not cover non-medical care provided by assisted living or in-home health care. Medicare may cover skilled nursing care for Parkinson’s patients, though it only provides partial coverage for up to 100 days.