Melanie Parten is a professional caregiver to a long term Parkinson’s Patient. She describes the side many don’t see.
I was new to Parkinson’s when I began working with my patient. I really didn’t know anything about it. When I started, I was happy to see that he still had his ability to speak, and have fun, and smile— that really brightens up the day! If I’m having a bad day, but I can get him to smile, my day is made.
In line with our James Bond theme at KiMe, Melanie has been assigned agent status 002: Caregiver for her selfless dedication to those dealing with Parkinson’s. There are seven total “00” status agents in this interview series.
I know that he is thinking, there’s no doubt that his mind is sharp… Sometimes, it can be hard to get him to speak.
All of this is new to me, but as much as I am learning, I’m also helping him, and he is a true delight to be around.
His physician and home health care nurse keep us informed about new Parkinson’s treatments, technologies, and research. We also consult Google, sometimes. His daughter attends his appointments and goes to local support groups to learn more. She finds out what’s going on and lets us know.
I come in and I make sure that he is okay. He is normally in his hospital bed and he’s hooked up to a nightly feeding pump and I make sure that it is still running as well as it should be. And I get the first of his medicine started, and I get him ready for the day. He uses a sit-to-stand chair, which is a great tool to maneuver him. We also have an excellent wheelchair. We go into the living room and start his day.
Sometimes, he will be sleepy and sometimes he will be more alert. As a game, I blow up a balloon (when he’s feeling very alert and in a good mood) and we bat it back-and-forth. He still has some good strength! Once, when we were hitting it back-and-forth, the balloon hit the fireplace and it popped and we both laughed. There’s a hand towel I tied a knot into it, and he likes throwing it back-and-forth to me. He’s very good at it. It just depends on the day…
Being able to help someone throughout the day, and seeing them smile and joke, that is a reward for me.
I have gained even more patience being a caregiver to this Parkinson’s patient.
His ability to do something takes a little longer to do it, but he is very willing.
I am always telling him “We are going to do this.” I tell him step-by-step when we’re on the sit-to-stand or getting in his wheelchair or out of his wheelchair. I tell him ahead of time and he is very helpful. I would say that whether it’s your family or someone coming to visit, or just whoever is just dealing with someone with Parkinson’s, they may not talk back to you, but they know what’s going on, and just keep it up!
I try to joke around, and when you can get that response it means the world, so don’t give up on somebody just because they have a disease.
About Faith McGhee
After 17-year-old Faith McGhee graduated early from Oak Ridge High School in 2022, she sought out a new assignment—researching Parkinson’s disease. It was at a 2022 KiMe Fund Volunteer meeting the idea developed. Over the next few months McGhee made time to interview doctors, caregivers and patients, chronicling their stories of the neurological disorder that steals a person’s ability to move, eat and speak. What sparked her curiosity and concern? Faith’s grandfather has suffered from Parkinson’s her whole life. “The word I would use to describe him—it’s just strong,” she said. “He’s persevered through everything and he’s always been there for me and I try to do the same for him now.” Faith intends for these interviews to be a source of information, education and inspiration.