My Mother Has Parkinson's

Doctor Marion,

My mother is 83 years old and has parkinson's disease (the stiffness in the arms, not the tremors), diabetes, high blood pressure. She recently told me that she is afraid to sleep because she fears dieing. What can I do to help her? I gave her a very mild sleeping pill prescribed by the doctor (which I won't do again) and she was like a zombie the next day. I leave the TV on at times or the radio onto classical music. I also lotion her face with lavendar to help soothe her. I noticed that when anyone is in the room she seems to sleep. I think she wants or needs someone in her room to reassure her. What can I do to help her sleep?

Sharon in Texas, 55

Dear Sharon,

Your 83 year-old mother is dealing with a difficult and complicated set of challenges, but she is blessed to have a daughter who is so involved and concerned.  Many elderly are not getting proper nutrition, and by that I mean fresh fruit, vegetables, and proteins.  If this is the case with your mother, please address it as soon as possible.

Another question: is she getting enough fresh air, direct sun shine, and exercise?   We all know these things are good for us, but it takes effort to make it happen for the senior in our lives. Even sitting near a window that lets the sun shine through is helpful. Sunlight sets our internal clock, and this makes sleeping easier and more regular.  Simple exercise and deep breathing exercises also aide sleeping. The body is meant to move and our blood and brains need to have fresh oxygen.

Please have your mother evaluated by a geriatric nutritionist to make sure she is getting proper and balanced nutrition.  Ask her primary doctor about the level of exercise that she can do.   Also have her primary doctor and her pharmacist evaluate all of her prescribed and over-the-counter medications and vitamins to make sure nothing is contraindicated. Finally, talk to your mother about her fears of dying or have her talk to a trusted friend, religious support person, or a professional therapist.

Sincerely,

Doctor Marion

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