What is Huntington’s Disease?
Huntington’s disease is a severe health condition which affects the functionality of the brain. The disease causes damage to certain nerve cells, which result in the individual developing a range of movement, cognitive and psychiatric disorders.
Who does it affect?
Huntington’s disease is hereditary and is passed down in the form a mutation in a specific gene. It’s most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50, but there are cases where symptoms have first presented themselves as early as 4 and as late as 80 (Cubo and Guttman, 2019). For every 100,000 people, on average 2.7 are affected by Huntington’s disease.
Children have a 50% chance of getting the mutant gene and therefore inheriting the disease. Children who don’t inherit the disease from their parents cannot pass it on to their own children.
Since the discovery of the affected gene in 1993, it’s now possible to confirm the presence of the mutated gene through a blood test, allowing identification of the potential disease long before any symptoms are present. This process is called predictive testing and is available to the children of parents diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, if they so wish.
How does Huntington’s disease affect you?
Classified as a hereditary neurodegenerative disease, Huntington’s has a deep and widespread impact on all areas of a person’s life, and the symptoms gradually worsen over time. The average life expectancy after the initial diagnosis is around 20 years, and in the latter stages of the condition fulltime nursing care is often required.
Possible physical symptoms:
- Jerking or fidgety movements of the limbs and body
- Stumbling and clumsiness
- Problems swallowing, speaking and breathing
- Difficulty moving
Possible behavioural symptoms:
- Difficulty with communication
- Memory and concentration lapses
- Personality changes and mood swings
As a degenerative disease, individuals with Huntington’s progressively worsen over time. The disease is broken into three stages:
- Early Stage – diagnosed individuals can mostly continue to live uninterrupted, including working and driving. Involuntary movements and dementia symptoms are mild if at all present.
- Middle Stage – individuals need assistance with basic daily activities. Symptoms such as weight loss, swallowing difficulties and more severe involuntary movements are often present.
- Late Stage – in the late stage of Huntington’s disease individuals require around the clock care, often in a hospital or nursing home. Symptoms are very severe and it’s possible that walking and speaking is no longer possible.
As the disease progresses, individuals find it more difficult to look after themselves and the level of care required increases.
Risk of injuries from involuntary movements and Chorea
Individuals with Huntington’s disease are at greater risk of illness and injury. For those in the Middle Stage of the disease, where jerking and involuntary movements are prevalent, impact injuries from striking hard surfaces can be common.
Where possible, it’s recommended to create living environments that are not cluttered and are easy to manoeuvre around in.
Beds for Huntington’s Disease
As a designer and manufacturer of adjustable care beds, we’ve created a care bed package to meet the care requirements for individuals with Huntington’s disease.
The bed is built from one of our most durable frames, the Opera ProSafe, which has been constructed to ensure longevity in challenging environments whilst maintaining a visually appealing design.
The hard surfaces of the bed are covered by a padded cocoon surround, greatly reducing the risk of impact injuries whilst in the bed. The bed also features full profiling capability, with both height and position adjustments meaning it’s ideal for nursing care and for ease of access.
The cocoon itself is attached by adjustable fixing clips around various points of the bed, meaning it can be easily removed and reattached as and when required.