Elderly Parkinson’s Care and Creating New Neural Pathways

As you complete your home attendant training in NYC, you’ll learn about various aspects of daily care. Elderly patients can require assistance on many different levels. For those with Parkinson’s disease, a home health aide in NYC must tend to special personal care and mobility needs. The illness develops and progresses as neurons (brain cells) connecting the region where the neurotransmitter dopamine is created—the substantia nigra—and the striatum—where movement is coordinated—die.

The dopamine source is thereby cut off, so initiating movement becomes difficult. Missing connections create a sort of maze where clear pathways for messengers are blocked. A concept known as neuroplasticity applies to dealing with this problem. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s natural ability to form new pathways and connections. Once thought to be present only during childhood, this flexibility exists well into old age as undamaged neural axons can grow and form new nerve endings and connections.

Now, that’s something you might not have learned in your home health aide training in Manhattan!

Parkinson’s and Neural Pathways

Parkinson’s patients have difficulty with movement, as communication between two major types of brain cells is disrupted. Projection neurons send messages from the striatum to the neocortex. This creates problems with initiating or halting movement. Fast-spiking interneurons allow communication within the striatum where movement is coordinated.

In addition to movement-related issues, Parkinson’s disease is associated with cognitive and emotional issues a medical assistant in NYC might see. Memory and attention span are affected. Patients may also exhibit poor balance and be slow to process information, while neurological deficiencies that result can be seen through Parkinson’s-related disorders such as:

  • Dystonia: Muscle contractions causing twitching, repetitive movements, twisting, and abnormal postures.
  • Bradykinesia: Slow movement when actions are initiated and executed, especially those requiring several steps.
  • Micrographia: A loss of dopamine affects voluntary and involuntary muscle movements.
  • Dementia/cognition: Cognitive functions, memory, and recall are impacted, as is a patient’s imagination.
  • Hypomimia: A lack of facial expression, or blank look, resulting when automatic movements are lost.

How to Build New Neurological Pathways

The brain may have a natural ability to form new pathways to compensate for low dopamine levels. Learning strategies can tap into this potential; therefore, these may be useful in adding to what home health aide certification in NYC teaches you. With or without Parkinson’s, the brain can form new neural pathways, even in areas near where dopamine is normally produced.

Your HHA training in NYC also prepares you to treat stroke patients. Treatment for stroke and Parkinson’s patients is similar in that it can focus on relearning functions lost due to neural impairment. For example, stroke patients may recover and regain movements in affected areas. In seniors with Parkinson’s disease, a similar process may play out in compensating for slow movement.

One way to do this is to employ exaggerated motions when walking. In doing so, a patient can compensate for balance issues. Changing the brain takes time. You can make the most of your medical assistant training in NYC by helping the person:

  • Decide on a new habit to practice.
  • Shift their focus from an old habit.
  • Recognize how the new activity can help.
  • Address triggers of an old habit.
  • Repeat activities to reinforce the new habit.

Elderly Parkinson’s Care and Learning

The process goes much deeper than simply changing a senior’s habits. Intensive learning can, in fact, change the brain on a physical level, forming new neural pathways to access other sources of dopamine. Research on rats has shown dopamine loss affects an individual based on the type of neuron impacted and the nature of the behavior or task learned. Scientists are, therefore, focusing on restoring brain dynamics not uniformly restored with dopamine replacement therapy.

Thus, newer and potentially more effective methods of elderly Parkinson’s care are possible. To ultimately apply these, medical assistant training in NYC qualifies you to work with HHA agencies in the Bronx and elsewhere. Learn more about our home health aide training in NYC and medical assistant programs in the area. For more help, contact ABC Training Center today at (718) 364-6700.