April is Parkinson’s awareness month. In simplest terms, Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a central nervous system disorder than can affect movement, often involving tremors. These tremors can be exhibit themselves in outer extremities such as legs
and arms, or internally such as one’s larynx impacting their ability to swallow.

Though many are aware of the term Parkinson’s, few know early signs of Parkinson’s.

The Parkinson’s Foundation lists 10 early signs of “PD” Parkinson’s Dementia.
1. Tremors
2. Small Handwriting
3. Loss of smell
4. Trouble sleeping
5. Trouble moving or walking
6. Constipation
7. A soft of low voice
8. Masked face
9. Dizziness or fainting
10. Stooping or Hunching Over

A symptom of Parkinson’s that can be easily overlooked is dysphagia, which is a swallow impairment. Tremors present in the larynx impact the safety of the swallow mechanism increasing the individual’s risk of aspiration and aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration is when a foreign particle, such as a liquid or food, enters past the vocal folds of the trachea and into the powerhouses of our body: our lungs. Speech Language Pathologists (SLP) are the healthcare practitioners that will work within the interdisciplinary team to provide diagnosis and treatment for dysphagia.
There are 3 types of dysphagia:

1. Oral Dysphagia: swallow impairment that occurs inside of the oral cavity. Impairments generally are impaired mastication, or chewing, of food, and/or decreased propulsion of the food or liquid bolus resulting in oral residue.

2. Pharyngeal Dysphagia: swallow impairment that occurs in the pharynx which can result poor transit of the bolus to the esophagus or decreased coordination of pharyngeal elements resulting in aspiration.

3. Esophageal Dysphagia: impairment in the esophagus where bolus does not transmit to stomach area. A referral to a GI specialist is needed.

An individual can experience dysphagia in multiple phases of the swallow. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms in swallowing or early signs of Parkinson’s, consult with your Doctor who can make the appropriate referrals. As Parkinson’s progresses, more assistance may be required to support you in your activities of daily living such as meal prep, housekeeping, and medication reminders. If this is you, contact Perfect Solutions for Seniors, a senior in home company, with a Speech Language Pathologist leading the staff in best communication and assistive practices for their senior clients.

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