Parkinson’s is a disease that does not affect all people in the same way. One person might experience a certain symptom, and another may not. Or, they may experience similar symptoms, but at different times during the course of the disease. For that reason, it’s hard to predict just how Parkinson’s disease will progress for an individual. While doctors cannot tell their patients exactly what will happen next, there are typical paths of progression that can give families a better idea of what to expect.

Hoehn and Yahr Rating Scale

Some doctors use a rating tool called the Hoehn and Yahr rating scale to describe the stage of the disease a person is in. Doctors started using the scale in 1967 to explain the progression of motor symptoms. Other doctors use a tool called the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale, which includes other factors, like mental function and social interaction, to determine a patient’s stage. You may hear this scale called UPDRS.

Stages of Parkinson’s Disease

Not only are the symptoms of Parkinson’s different from one person to the next, so are the rates at which the disease progresses. Some people may move through the stages quickly, but others can take 20 years or more. The stages of Parkinson’s disease are as follows:

  • Stage 1: The symptoms in this stage are mild. They might include tremors and other symptoms that affect movement, but the symptoms occur on only one side of the body. There may also be changes in facial expressions, posture, and the way the person walks.
  • Stage 2: Now movement symptoms affect both sides of the body and are getting worse. Changes in walking and posture are more apparent. Although the older adult may still be able to live in their home, they may require some help with daily tasks that have become harder.
  • Stage 3: This is the middle stage of the disease. Balance problems and slowed movements are a major indicator of this phase. The person may fall and have trouble with things like dressing and other daily activities.
  • Stage 4: This stage of Parkinson’s is when the disease becomes more disabling. The person may still be able to stand unaided, but will need a walker for mobility. Living alone is no longer possible.
  • Stage 5: In the final stage of the disease, the person will no longer be able to stand or walk, but will be in a wheelchair or bedridden. The patient may also have hallucinations and delusions.

If an older adult in your life has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it’s best to begin planning for future care early on. Talk to friends and family members who may be willing to spend time with the senior as the disease progresses. Hiring a home care provider can add a level of support for both the senior and their family caregivers. Home care providers can spend as much time as needed with the person, just a few hours a day, an entire day, or overnight. Home care providers are able to do for a Parkinson’s patient nearly everything that family members can, including helping them to bathe, dress, and ambulate.


When you are in need of care for a senior loved one, consider caregivers provided by Golden Heart Senior Care. We have offices nationwide. For more information, call us today at (800) 601-2792.