Holistic Health Strategies for Dementia and Parkinson’s – Part One

This is an immense subject very close to my heart, so I plan to address it in several parts, this being the introductory post of more to come. 

First, I want to lay my biases right out on the table. My experience with my immediate family has converted me, a younger, but old-fashioned, down-to-earth nature girl, to a new level of respect regarding the incredible improvements modern pharmaceuticals can make in one’s quality of life. 

My mother, who can’t walk when she wakes up in the morning, can cruise around the neighborhood with no assistance (even from a walker), once her dopamine-enhancing Parkinson’s meds kick in around breakfast time.  Another family member very close to me has been helped immensely by a drug for a devastating, near-fatal IBD (colon) disease, which has made a doomed-seeming young life happy and healthy again. 

On the other hand, I’ve seen the side effects of bad drug combinations and intense medications rip both of those family members completely apart, to the point of hospitalization, more than once.  And if you’re statistics savvy, you know that one of the leading causes of death in our country is prescription medications, which kill more people annually than traffic accidents.  (See link below for more info.) 

I’ve healed myself through nutrition and other gentle, common-sense holistic health measures throughout my life, and had some fantastic results with a few tough, chronic health issues that doctors couldn’t help me with.  I’m by no means opposed to using any mainstream medical resource that provides the health support you may need, but I believe in carefully questioning anything that can possibly do harm as much or more than it can support us in health

I find it hopeful that holistic and medical systems have begun to collaborate more often.  Acupuncture, massage, and nutritional supplements/consultation are becoming much more accessible within regular medical practices.  You less often need to choose between one system or the other these days, and can opt to have the whole spectrum of options within your awareness.

In most cases, I think that anyone who hears your diagnosis and tells you what to do with your health is somewhat ignorant about the nature of disease and how we heal.

 People are incredibly individual in how they manifest certain illnesses.  I think the most successful doctors and healers are the ones who listen deeply, are able to see each person as a unique individual, and devise treatment strategies accordingly, involving the patient in decision-making and making her or his feedback an essential part of the process.

My mother and I were recently at a Parkinson’s support group, and the kinds of symptoms and concerns among the participants was all over the map- so much that if you talked to them outside the group, you would never know they had the same disease.  Several members mentioned switching neurologists until they finally found someone who could understand THEIR Parkinson’s, vs. the classic picture of what one might expect in this disease.  It was then that they found relief with their treatment.

With dementia, the unique symptoms and possible causes fathom so much ground that it’s absolutely essential to work with a health professional who has the depth of practice to throw out assumptions and look at what’s really going on with each person.  That is where alternative health has tended to have a great advantage, and has a lot to teach the medical system, which it already has begun to transform.

More to come about holistic heath strategies, but for now, I will leave you with a list of links to resources I feel are valuable, if only to empower ourselves to learn more about holistic health options. 

 *If any sites include advertising for products, please know that I have no ties to them, and would encourage you to check out any books, videos, or products at the public library or your local senior center/support group resource room, before you decide if they’re worth investing in.*

~Person-centered Dementia Care: 

http://www.stacommunications.com/customcomm/Back-issue_pages/AD_Review/adPDFs/april03e/14.pdf

~Nutritional ideas for dementia (they use the word “cure”, but I would call it a TOOL instead):

http://www.healthy.net/scr/article.aspx?Id=3126

~Massage and Dementia: http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/1128/Dementia-Care

~Music Therapy and Dementia: http://www.mcknights.com/when-music-works-magic/article/112258/

 and  http://www.agingwellmag.com/news/story1.shtml

~Real Food and Whole Food Healing (why butter is better after all):  

http://www.grit.com/daily-commute/real-food-what-to-eat-and-why.aspx

http://www.westonaprice.org/abcs-of-nutrition/265-myths-a-truths-about-nutrition.html

http://www.healingwithwholefoods.com/about.html

~Leading cause of death is our medical system?

http://www.draxe.com/conventional-medicine-is-the-leading-cause-of-death/

~Exercise improves dementia:

http://www.lbda.org/feature/2334/exercise-improves-mental-and-physical-functioning-in-dementia-patients.htm

~Parkinson’s-specific exercise:

http://www.parkinsonsexercise.com/argue_faqs.html#3

http://www.pdf.org/en/exercise

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