Understanding Parkinson’s disease

2 March 2022

Male resident sat in a red chair


What is Parkinson's disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years.

What causes Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s develops when cells in the brain stop working properly and are lost over time.

These brain cells produce a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine enables messages to be sent to the parts of the brain that co-ordinate movement.

People with Parkinson’s don’t have enough of this chemical, because the cells that make it have died.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s start to appear when the brain can’t make enough dopamine to control movement.

It’s unclear exactly what causes the loss of nerve cells. Researchers think that it could be due to age, genetics or environmental factors.  

What are the different forms of parkinsonism?

Parkinsonism is a term that covers several conditions including Parkinson’s and other conditions with similar symptoms.

  • Idiopathic Parkinson’s – most people with parkinsonism have idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. It’s also known as ‘Parkinson’s’. The term ‘idiopathic’ means that the cause is unknown.
  • Vascular Parkinson’s – this type of Parkinson’s disease develops as a result of a restricted blood supply to the brain. Vascular Parkinson’s can develop following a mild stroke.
  • Drug-induced Parkinson’s – some drugs can cause parkinsonism. The symptoms of this type of Parkinson’s will tend to stay the same, and most people recover within months of stopping the drug that causes it.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

Everyone’s experience of Parkinson’s is different and unique.

There are over 40 potential symptoms of Parkinson’s.

The three main symptoms of Parkinson’s are:

  • tremor and involuntary shaking of the body
  • slowness of movement
  • rigidity and muscle stiffness.

Some of the other common symptoms of Parkinson’s are:

  • problems with sleep
  • memory loss
  • mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
  • loss of smell.

What are the treatments for Parkinson’s disease?

There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s.

There are treatments available to reduce the main symptoms of Parkinson’s and maintain people’s quality of life for as long as possible.

The treatments for Parkinson’s disease include:

  • supportive therapies such as physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, and occupational therapy
  • exercise
  • medication.

Some people find complementary therapies, such as aromatherapy and massage, helpful in managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s disease care with Exemplar Health Care

In the advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease, people will often experience very limited mobility, severe motor deficits, and cognitive and psychotic problems.

At this stage, they are likely to need extra care and support, which could be provided in a care home or nursing home that specialises in Parkinson’s disease care.

At Exemplar Health Care, we believe that people living with Parkinson’s disease can and should enjoy a high quality of life, with the dignity and independence they deserve.

We have specialist nursing homes across England that support adults living with complex and high acuity needs.

Many of our nursing homes have the facilities and expertise to care for people who are in the advanced or palliative stages of Parkinson’s disease, and have complex health and care needs and/or are experiencing the symptoms of dementia.

Our support for people living with Parkinson’s is delivered by in-house Nurse-led teams, who are trained in the complex care and medical needs that are associated with Parkinsons, including feeding and nutrition, behaviours of concern, and spasticity and posture management.

Each of our nursing homes has a Life Skills/Activities Team to support with holistic and therapeutic treatments, and many of them have in-house Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists.

Everyone who lives in our homes has the support of Exemplar Health Care’s clinical experts, including Behaviour Support Specialists and a Consultant Psychiatrist in times of crisis.

Living with Parkinson’s disease: Chris’ story 

Chris lives at our Thames House care home in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was around 30 years old. His symptoms have become more advanced as the disease has progressed, and he now needs specialist nursing care from the team at Thames House.

The Nurse-led team at the home support his medical and health needs.

Chris is also empowered to take part in meaningful activities to enhance his quality of life.

He’s the Service User Ambassador at the home, and gets involved in a range of projects such as inductions for colleagues and developing the company’s service user holiday policy.

This role gives Chris a sense of purpose. He says: “I’ve always been a busy person and need things to do. Being an ambassador enables me to put my ideas forward and get involved in different things that are going on, as well as find out information about the home.” 

Find a local Parkinson’s disease care home

A number of our specialist nursing homes support people living with Parkinson’s disease.

Find a care home for people with Parkinson’s on our ‘Find a care home’ search.

To make a care enquiry, contact our Referrals Team: