Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson’s Disease: Making the Most Of Your Health Team

You need your partner, family and friends on your side. You may have to educate them yourself. Your family may find the adjustment to your diagnosis as difficult as you do.

It is a good idea to seek some professional help if you or anyone else cannot come to terms with the diagnosis. Inability to accept it can generate anxiety that can work against your symptoms and cause friction within the family.

A variety of professionals may comprise your care team:

  • Your primary care physician will continue to look after your general health and will liaise with your neurologist if you have one. Continue your annual check-ups, and don’t assume that every problem with your health is related to PD.
  • If you attend a specialty PD clinic, there may be a nurse available to provide education and counseling, as well as provide information about how best to manage the disease. Depending on the clinic, the nurse may be your most frequent contact for advice.
  • If you are depressed or are having difficulty adjusting to your diagnosis and have a high level of anxiety, you might benefit from the help of a psychiatrist. Depression, anxiety, and other disorders may occur in some, but not all, people with PD. They can be disturbances in feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and intellectual functions such as memory. Psychiatrists use several methods of treatment that include verbal therapies (psychotherapy), marital and family counseling, and the use of medications.
  • physical therapist can help you with your posture, walking, and balance (to prevent falls), as well as with safe completion of daily activities (getting in and out of bed).
  • Many people exercise alone, but community-based programs are better because they offer social support and a good reason to get out of the house on a regular basis.
  • An occupational therapist can offer advice and instruction on adapted equipment, safety promotion at work and at home, conserving energy, problem-solving, and improving mobility. Some offer help with stress management, as well. A consultation with an occupational therapist in your home can be valuable if it needs some adaptation to provide easy access for someone with limited mobility.
  • speech-language pathologist can design a program to improve communication – possibly with ways other than speech. If you have a problem with swallowing, either a speech-language pathologist or an occupational therapist may help.
  • nutritionist can help you plan a healthy diet, considering your need to either maintain or reduce your weight. A nutritionist can also offer advice about meal preparation, taking your PD symptoms into account. A nutritionist can be your best source of information about food values.
  • social worker might help you solve social, emotional and economic concerns.
  • pharmacist will dispense your prescription drugs. If you are taking multiple drugs for multiple problems prescribed by different physicians, you should seriously consider using one pharmacy. In this way, you are less likely to encounter problems with one drug being incompatible with another.

Nice To Know:

You might benefit from a consultation with a physical therapist even if you are newly diagnosed. This is important if you plan to begin an exercise program or want to know whether you can continue your current sports and exercise. Walking and swimming are excellent activities for people with PD.

However, in the months before diagnosis, you may have noticed some difficulty with exercise or sports, and you might have felt more tired than you once did. These problems often improve when you start medication and can return to your former level of activity. (For instance, one avid golfer only succeeded in scoring a hole-in-one after taking SinemetTM; and thereafter, his golfing friends wanted to take it too!)

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