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Huntington’s disease

A piece of 2012 research carried out in the UK showed that 12 people per 100,00 were affected by this condition. In addition, the number of people with Huntington’s gene who are not yet affected is about twice those who have symptoms.

Huntington’s disease is an inherited disease that causes the progressive breakdown (degeneration) of nerve cells in the brain. The disease has a broad impact on a person’s functional abilities and usually results in movement, thinking (cognitive) and psychiatric disorders.

The disease is named after Dr George Huntington, an American physician, who was the first to publish a precise description of the symptoms and course of the disease in an article written in 1872. It was to be known as Huntington’s chorea; the Greek word meaning choreography, or dance. The name refers to the involuntary, jerky movements that can develop in later stages of the illness.

Symptoms of Huntington’s disease usually develop between ages 30 and 50, but they can appear as early as age 2 or as late as 80. The hallmark symptom of Huntington’s disease is uncontrolled movement of the arms, legs, head, face and upper body. Huntington’s disease also causes a decline in thinking and reasoning skills, including memory, concentration, judgement and ability to plan and organize. Brain changes that occur in people with Huntington’s disease lead to alterations in mood, especially depression, anxiety, and uncharacteristic anger and irritability. Another common symptom is obsessive-compulsive behaviour, leading a person to repeat the same question or activity over and over.

Care for People with Huntington’s Disease

While there is no cure for the disease, a clear multidisciplinary treatment plan can help to maintain a person’s quality of life. Physical therapy can help maintain coordination, balance, and flexibility. With this training, mobility is prolonged and falls are prevented. Occupational therapy can evaluate activities of daily living and recommend devices that help with movement, eating, drinking, bathing and dressing. Speech therapy can also help with swallowing and eating problems.

Maintaining a healthy body weight is essential because people who are underweight lose muscle mass and therefore feel weaker, become more apathetic or depressed and are more prone to infections. Exercise, social and psychological support can help maintain the individual’s mental well-being. An individual with Huntington’s disease should make sure their medications are reviewed regularly to make sure they remain effective in treating symptoms over the course of their illness.

Home Care Services for Individuals with Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is unique in the way it affects individuals, and the care for the condition often needs to be just as specialized. Amber Home Carers can design a care plan that incorporates therapies as well as assistance with housekeeping tasks and medication management. Some of the Home Care services for Huntington’s disease provided by Interim include:

  • Grooming
  • Laundry services
  • Medication reminders
  • Cognitive stimulation
  • Light housekeeping
  • Safety supervision
  • Getting dressed