After living with me for almost 10 years, my father moved into an assisted living facility last week. My father is 87 years old and suffers with Parkinson’s Disease.
Parkinson’s Disease is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that mainly affects the motor system. The symptoms generally come on slowly over time. Early in the disease, the most obvious are shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement, and difficulty with walking. Thinking and behavioral problems may also occur. Dementia becomes common in the advanced stages of the disease.
For the last 10 to 15 years, my father’s symptoms were relatively minor. His hands would shake frequently, but when he became aware of the shaking he was able to stop it. Despite some bad balance from time to time, he was able to do all of the usual things that you’d expect a man of his age to do. Late last year, he stopped driving. One month ago, he was walking without assistance and participating in a weekly bowling tournament.
During the last month he began to have troubles with his legs for the first time. In a four week period he went from walking and bowling, to using a cane, to using a rolling walker, and finally to using a wheelchair. Since my house has stairways, there’s no way he could continue to live with me. He now resides in the same senior assisted living center that my mother lived in during the last 6 years of her life. It feels strange to not have him in my house now.
My father’s doctor, a general practitioner, says that the leg weakness and pain could be caused by lumbar scoliosis and arthritis, or it could be an advancement of the Parkinson’s Disease. We’ll visit my father’s neurologist soon to get his opinion.
My father thinks that he can recover the strength in his legs with some physical therapy, and then he’ll be able to ditch the wheelchair and resume using the walker. I hope he’s right.