What are the end stage symptoms of Parkinson's?

A fellow caregiver asked...

What are the end stage symptoms of Parkinson's disease? What should we expect near the end? What is normal and what is not? My mom is 81 and has was diagnosed with Parksinon's disease 8 years ago. It has progressed quickly. She is on medications every 3 hours and has a feeding tube for her medicines since, at one point in her disease, she wasn't able to swallow without getting choked.

Expert Answer

Graham A. Glass, MD, is the co-founder of PEAK Neurology and Sleep Medicine, LLC with multiple locations across Alaska. Previously, he was deputy director of the San Francisco Parkinson's Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Care Center PADRECC and assistant clinical professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Glass received his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at the San Antonio School of Medicine and completed his neurology residency at Tufts-New England Medical Center. He subsequently completed a fellowship in movement disorders at the Mayo Clinic.

Parkinson's disease affects the whole nervous system and over time patients such as your mom develop a number of symptoms that are not often thought about. Although we often focus on tremor and movement problems, other "non-motor" symptoms can affect her quality of life more severely. No two patients with Parkinson's disease are the same and some patients are affected by some symptoms and other patients are affected by others. When a patient has had Parkinson's disease for many years problems that tend to affect them include swallowing and speech, problems with drooling, balance problems, constipation, and bladder problems which may include incontinence. Memory can often be affected as well and sometimes patients can develop confusion and hallucinations which may actually be worsened by some Parkinson's medicines. It is important to work with a doctor that has significant experience with Parkinson's disease if possible, as these problems can be complicated to treat. The National Parkinson Foundation has a number of educational materials that you may find helpful in further understanding all of the symptoms that can be associated with Parkinson's disease at the advanced stages National Parkinson Foundation