Parkinson’s Disease: Things You Should Do Right Now
- Collaborate with your doctor- Most likely you will already have a neurologist when you get your official diagnosis of PD. If you haven’t done so, you should also find a Movement Disorder Specialist (MDS). This is a doctor that specializes in Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and other movement disorders. A list of these doctors can be found on the Parkinson’s Foundation website. (www.parkinson.org).
- Find the best medication for you- Discuss with your neurologist or MDS what medications are available and might work best for you. There are medications that can decrease you PD symptoms, but some may cause you to develop side effects over time such as dyskinesias or dystonia. These medications can also begin to wear off quickly between doses, leading to have to take more medication. This does not mean you should not take your prescribed medication, but you should work with your doctor to determine the correct dosage. Research the different types of medications and their possible side effects to allow you to be prepared to discuss your options when you meet with your doctor.
- Build Your Team- It takes a village and you will need a care team to support you through your journey. Besides your neurologist and/or MDS, several medical professionals will be key in the success of your fight against this disease. Your doctor can help determine which therapies may be best for you.
- Physical Therapy: A physical therapist (PT) can teach you ways to slow down the progression of your disease symptoms and instruct you in a proper exercise program tailored to your needs. Your doctor may order PT during your first visit, but if you are not displaying many symptoms early on, some doctors wait until you experience symptoms. Be proactive and ask for a PT order because a PT can educate you in the proper Parkinson’s specific exercises, that can help delay the onset of your symptoms. A Parkinson’s trained PT has been taught how to identify your symptoms and develop a program tailored to your specific needs. You should also develop a relationship with your PT so they can help you throughout your journey. PD is a progressive disease and you’ll want to have people on your team who understand your journey from the beginning, to help you along the way. Be sure to seek out a Parkinson’s trained and experienced PT to ensure you’ll get equipped with the proper tools and education to fight this disease process.
- Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy: During your journey, you may also require an occupational therapist (OT) or a Speech Therapist (ST). An OT can help you with ADL’s such as dressing, getting in and out of the shower or fine motor coordination tasks, which may occur later in your disease process. A ST can address cognitive deficits, voice projection and swallowing issues that may also occur later in the disease process.
- Psychologist or Psychiatrist: You may want to seek out a mental health specialist if you are experiencing anxiety or depression which can be a symptom of PD.
- EXERCISE, EXERCISE AND EXERCISE! – Exercise is going to be your best defense against this disease. Research shows that exercise:
- Can slow the progression of Parkinson’s symptoms and the disease process
- Improve cognition
- Improve the symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Improve fatigue
- Decrease rigidity
- Decrease falls
- Improve functional mobility, and in turn, decrease isolation
- Improve non-motor symptoms
The term “use it or lose it” has a whole new meaning for those with PD. Exercise is your daily medication. In order to get these results, exercise needs to be performed consistently (daily) and will need to continue for the rest of your life. See the blog post, 10 Essentials of a Parkinson’s Exercise Program.
“Success doesn’t come from what you do sometimes. It comes from what you do consistently”
- Eat right- There is no consensus on a specific Parkinson’s Disease diet but eating right and getting enough sleep will be important and can help with fatigue, constipation, depression, and anxiety that can develop with PD. There is some evidence that a high protein meal may interfere with your PD medication. There is also some evidence that a Mediterranean Diet helps but has not been scientifically proven. Please consult with your doctor to discuss your individual concerns.
- Become an advocate- Get involved with an organization to help support those with Parkinson’s Disease. Whether it be to donate, volunteer, raise awareness or fundraise to give a voice to the Parkinson’s community.
- Join a support group- I highly recommend this. At first, you may feel you don’t need it or you’re not comfortable with it, especially when you see others that are more advanced in the disease process than you. Nonetheless, it will be important for you and your spouse, and/or caregiver to find support. It will allow you to make new friends who are going through similar experiences. It can also provide you with information that may be happening in your community to allow you to expand your roadmap for success.