Huntington’s disease is a brain disorder that is passed down through families. It affects about 30,000 people in the United States. Being the caregiver to someone with Huntington’s disease can be difficult, especially if you don’t know a lot about the condition. Knowing the symptoms of the disease can help you to better understand how it affects the person you are caring for.
General Information About Huntington’s Disease
The majority of people with Huntington’s disease start to exhibit symptoms when they are in their 30s or 40s. However, it is possible for symptoms to start at a younger or older age. When the disease occurs earlier, it usually progresses more quickly.
Huntington’s is incurable and, ultimately, results in the person having to rely on caregivers for all their needs. In the late stage of the disease, the individual is typically bed-ridden and cannot speak. Still, they are still likely to be able to understand speech and be aware when family and friends are in the room.
People with Huntington’s disease typically die from complications of the disease, such as:
• An injury due to a fall.
• Pneumonia or other types of infections.
• Complications that arise because of problems swallowing.
Symptoms of Huntington’s Disease
Huntington’s disease has three main kinds of symptoms that caregivers need to be aware of. They are:
• Movement related symptoms.
• Cognitive problems.
• Psychiatric disorders.
The movement problems associated with the disease often cause jerky, fast limb movements, called chorea. It can also cause muscles to be stiff and rigid, which is called dystonia. Sometimes the movement a person intends to make can be exaggerated, so that a movement that was meant to be small ends up being large and dramatic. This can result in the person trying to adjust themselves in a chair and ending up falling out of it. Movement problems also affect the ability to walk and maintain balance. In addition, they can make speaking and swallowing difficult.
Cognitive problems can make it hard to complete daily activities and tasks because they cannot organize them or stay focused. It can also cause them to focus solely on one thought or behavior, so they repeat it over and over. Huntington’s can also affect impulse control, making the person act out or do things without thinking.
Depression is the most common psychiatric symptom associated with Huntington’s disease. Doctors believe it isn’t just a reaction to a devastating diagnosis but caused by changes in the brain. Other psychiatric disorders that may occur are obsessive-compulsive disorder, mania, and bipolar disorder.
Because the disease is progressive, caregivers should consider getting some help before the disease reaches its late stages. One source of help is home care. Home care agencies can send an experienced, professional caregiver to the home to assist with your family member’s care. This can allow family caregivers the opportunity to take a break and refresh themselves, spend time with others, or focus more fully on work.
If you or an aging loved one are considering a Caregiver in Cornelius, NC, please call the professional staff at Caring at Heart today at (704) 379-7510.Serving Charlotte, Statesville, Ballantyne, Mooresville, Huntersville, Matthews, Concord, Gastonia, Pineville and Indian Trail.