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Parkinson’s recent research advancements to help the elderly

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Parkinson’s disease in the elderly

According to the NHS, “Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years.” It affects physical movement and can cause shaking, muscle stiffness, loss of smell and slow movement.

It is the fastest-growing neurological condition in the world and Parkinson’s UK states, “around 145,000 people live with Parkinson’s in the UK.”

With this condition, age plays a significant part. The National Institute of Aging suggests, “Although most people with Parkinson’s first develop the disease after age 60, about 5% to 10% experience onset before the age of 50.” There is no cure for the condition, but treatments are available to help manage the symptoms. Plus, there has been ongoing research on the condition to help older adults.

Phase 3 Parkinson’s disease clinical trials confirmed – Ambroxol

In January 2023, the Phase 3 Parkinson’s disease clinical trials were approved. Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech, founded by Parkinson’s UK, is a movement researching different treatment types to help individuals with the condition.

Parkinson’s UK is collaborating with Cure Parkinson’s “to co-fund a clinical trial looking at the potential of a cough medicine called ambroxol to treat Parkinson’s” and slow down the progression.

Ambroxol for Parkinson’s disease in elderly patients

Researchers discovered that ambroxol, used to treat coughs and sore throats, could also be potentially used to manage Parkinson’s, including treating older adults.

According to Parkinson’s UK, the build-up of a protein called alpha-synuclein is often seen in the brain tissue. These are said to be toxic and they can spread the condition through the brain. From the research, “ambroxol may help improve the body’s ability to clear away these clumps of alpha-synuclein and prevent damage to brain cells.”

A trial of the medication in 2020 showed that “ambroxol was safe for people with Parkinson’s to take” and “could reach the area needed to boost GCase”, which is the enzyme known to clear waste products in brain cells. The new phase will now test the drug in a larger group with Parkinson’s.

Positive trial three results for new Parkinson’s medication – Levodopa

Neuroderm conducted research and announced positive results from its trial three on levodopa, the main class of Parkinson’s medication. Parkinson’s UK states, “levodopa is a chemical building block that your body converts into dopamine in the brain,” which can help treat Parkinson’s symptoms. There are different types of levodopa that are available as a tablet or intestinal gel.

According to the NHS, levodopa “is often combined with other medication, such as benserazide or carbidopa.” These medications stop levodopa from breaking down in the bloodstream before reaching the brain. It also helps reduce side effects, including nausea, tiredness and dizziness. But in the long term, the impact of the medication can decrease, which means your dose may be increased.

How does levodopa help Parkinson’s disease for the elderly

There are various benefits of levodopa and how it can support older adults. It helps improve symptoms, especially stiffness and slowness of movement. Therefore, it can allow you to carry out daily activities such as walking, eating using cutlery, exercising and getting dressed.

There are risks and side effects that you should be aware of, including low blood pressure, loss of appetite, anxiety, depression, sleep problems and hallucinations. If you are experiencing any of these side effects, contact your GP immediately.

Gut bacteria linked to Parkinson’s as a potential cause and effect progression

Although Parkinson’s affects the brain, research has shown that the gut can play a potential role in the condition.

According to Parkinson’s UK, our gut has up to a trillion microbes, where many are seen as good bacteria, which help to fight infections and digest food. However, the bacteria in the gut can vary and “recent research has shown that gut bacteria in individuals with Parkinson’s differs from that of people without Parkinson’s.” Scientists believe that “harmful gut bacteria may produce chemicals that are important in the development of the condition.”

Further research investigated whether there were differences in the bacteria found in the gut with or without Parkinson’s. They conducted a study on 490 people with Parkinson’s and 234 healthy individuals.

The results showed that some bacteria could cause higher levels of inflammation and constipation. It also breaks down Parkinson’s medication in the gut before it can be absorbed and decrease the body’s ability to make dopamine, which is needed for movement and memory.

How can this lead to new Parkinson’s research

Researchers will now look to repeat these tests on people worldwide to see how the environment can affect gut bacteria.

According to David Dexter, the Associate Director of Research at Parkinson’s UK, “the key additional information this study provides is that the changes in gut bacteria can influence not only the progression of the condition but also how a person responds to their Parkinson’s medication.”

He states, “Further research is needed before we can suggest that rebalancing the gut in Parkinson’s to more like we see in healthy individuals will be an effective treatment for people living with Parkinson’s.”

Ultimately, ongoing research will help to increase the search for improved treatment and a cure for the condition.

How Helping Hands can help care for elderly with Parkinson’s

At Helping Hands, we provide Parkinson’s care so that our customers can live independently at home. Our carers can provide the necessary levels of support you need to help manage your symptoms.

All our carers are trained to support the day-to-day routine of individuals living with Parkinson’s. This can include help with bathing, getting dressed and mobility. They will also support you with your medication, which must be taken at specified times to help manage symptoms.

Furthermore, we will work with our clinical team and your occupational therapist to prioritise safety measures at home to prevent trips or falls. After all, we want to ensure you are safe in your own home.

Our friendly carers can also help manage household duties, including the laundry, stacking the dishwasher and cooking meals. We will also offer emotional support; you can always count on us if you’d like a chat over a cuppa, a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on.

For more information on our Parkinson’s care packages, contact our friendly customer care team. They are available seven days a week to answer any queries you may have. Alternatively, walk into our local branch to meet a member of our team in person.

Page reviewed by Carole Kerton-Church, Regional Clinical Lead on April 26, 2023