The structure and orientation of a comprehensive care team may vary depending on the available resources, and its members may change as the disease progresses. One thing is certain: patients, their family and loved ones are the most critical members of the team. The key to living well with PD is active participation by the patient.
The Booth Gardner Parkinson's Care Center team include neurologists fellowship trained in movement disorders, nurses, neuropsychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists. Other centers or community professionals can be a helpful part of the team. For instance, creative therapists in art, music and recreation, spiritual counselors, massage therapist and exercise trainers can be team members found in the community.
In a more global sense, the patient's social network and community can provide additional resources to support the team. For example, many communities offer support groups, exercise groups or senior centers that could be part of the treatment plan.
Think about your current problems or concerns and select from the specialists below. Ask your doctor for a referral to this person. Remember that therapy can be used to help both your current problems and reduce the risk or affect of future problems or complications.
Doctors, nurse specialists and physician assistants play a significant role in long-term follow-up and complement the physician's care. Such clinicians are also an important resource for counseling, education and long-term management and can be a source of support for the caregiver as well as the person with Parkinson's.
Physical therapists help the PD patient address issues such as strength, endurance, movement control, flexibility, gait, balance, freezing and fall prevention. The physical therapist can custom-tailor a home exercise program to improve mobility problems and prevent or reduce the impact of future anticipated problems - especially early in the disease. Care partners are often included to help with everyday activities such as getting in and out of chairs, beds and cars.
Occupational therapists help the PD patient manage everyday chores at home, at work or in the community. They play a key role in home safety, offering practical advice and devices to help with daily activities. Occupational therapists can also assess a work environment and use of technology, such as computers, and they often work with patients on cognitive training, driver's evaluation, care-giving needs and time and disease management.
Speech and swallowing pathologists can help the PD patient with voice problems, especially if treatment is initiated soon after the emergence of soft or monotone voice patterns. A speech therapist manages all aspects of communication, including nonverbal communication such as facial expression. A swallowing specialist can evaluate and treat swallowing problems using a combination of modified diet, altered swallowing techniques and exercises.
Social workers and counselors focus on the psychosocial and behavioral aspects of disease, including coping therapies and family needs. These individuals may help to identify home health needs, disability and work-related concerns and community resources, and work to determine the need for hospice care, respite services, assisted living and nursing homes.
Dieticians can help with unwanted weight loss or weight gain, constipation, vitamin deficiency and supplementation, protein-related medication interactions and dehydration. They may also be able to recommend dietary changes to reduce swallowing problems.
Neuropsychologists evaluate cognitive (thinking) skills by employing tests to identify and measure cognitive strengths and weaknesses. Based on findings from these tests, the psychologist can then put in place a treatment plan based on enhancing cognitive strengths and working with areas that need improvement.
Creative therapists include therapists in art, music, dance and recreation who use creative expression to influence physical and mental wellness and healing. Recreational therapy can also help a person enhance his or her hobbies and improve the quality of leisure time.
Spiritual and community leaders, who are available through community programs, can be a valuable source of strength and support. If your community has a senior center, or a wellness or exercise program - take advantage of it! If your community lacks specific programs for PD, seek out a support group and work with other members to create your own programs.
The Booth Gardner Parkinson's Care Center offers 2-3 full-day comprehensive care visits for patients seeking a comprehensive care approach. This program is designed to serve those who live at a distance from the center. Our team members will then make recommendations that your local physician can use for additional treatment closer to home.
If you cannot travel to our Center or another movement disorder center, you and your family can still assemble your own team. This task may seem overwhelming. To begin, it is helpful to prioritize your problems and concerns. Next identify the type of specialist from the list below that can best help you solve problems. To find a Parkinson's specialist, ask your doctor for a referral and use the experience of others who live with Parkinson's disease. A support group is a good place to start when looking for a recommendation. This list of foundations and educational resources will assist you in finding help in your area.