There’s no doubt that coping with Parkinson’s Disease requires special and directed care. Family caregivers and their aging loved ones should consider drafting key players for their own personal Parkinson’s care team.
Why does a person with Parkinson’s need a care team? Because Parkinson’s is a very complicated disease which can affect many different aspects of a person’s health and life. While there may be one doctor who has overall responsibility for the management of the patient, specialists are usually required to properly see to the special care needs.
So who should be a part of the comprehensive care team of a person with Parkinson’s? This will vary depending upon the specific needs of each individual, but the following people are typically part of that team:
- The patient and his/her caregiver. This may seem obvious, but it’s important that the patient and caregiver are included as a part of the team; they must be involved in making decisions and in understanding the reasons that certain management options need to be considered. Unless there is “buy-in” from those most directly affected, a team will not be able to be effective.
- Primary care provider. It is most likely that a person’s primary care provider will be the first to spot signs that indicate Parkinson’s. The primary care provider continues to be a very important part of the team. He or she may play a major role in helping to determine treatment plans for the disease, but at the very least this person will continue to attend to the overall health of the patient. It is important that he or she is in regular contact with the other specialists in order to determine if symptoms seemingly unrelated to Parkinson’s might in fact have some connection to the disease or its treatment.
- Neurologist. Neurologists treat a number of disorders involving the nervous system, including Parkinson’s. Some people with Parkinson’s find that a general neurologist is sufficient for their needs; others require a movement disorder specialist (MDS). This is a neurologist who has received additional training that enables him or her to better understand and address movement disorders that accompany Parkinson’s.
- Specialized therapists. It often is beneficial for a person with Parkinson’s to receive special care from a physical therapist or an occupational therapist. Both of these health care professionals work on different kinds of physical challenges and on developing strategies for meeting them. A speech therapist is sometimes required when Parkinson’s causes communication issues to arise. A mental health therapist may also be needed in order to assist patients who are dealing with depression or worry related to their health and the changes it brings about in their lives.
- Social worker. Sometimes people dealing with chronic illnesses can benefit from working with a social worker, especially when it comes to finding plans for dealing with insurance issues or thinking about long term planning.
Dealing with Parkinson’s can be difficult, but with special care and a proper team, many of the difficulties can be dealt with productively.