Build Your Support Team
Remember, we are not islands unto ourselves. We will do best when surrounded with a strong support network, made up of caring individuals all working to help you live better with this disease. Build your Parkinson’s support team. For everyone, the members of this team will be different. It very much depends on your age and stage of life. But in every case, the end point of all those involved must be your quality of life, independence and productivity.
Who should be the members of your team?
Medical Professionals: As a family physician, I must emphasize how important it is to remember to maintain all aspects of your general health. This is extremely important. Just because you have Parkinson’s, doesn’t mean unfortunately that you’re immune to other illnesses. Some of you know this to be true from personal experience. Keeping up with your regular physicals, routine tests such as blood work, mammograms, prostate exams etc. cannot be ignored. You need to optimize your overall health in order to live well with Parkinson’s.
Another very important member of your team is of course the physician managing your Parkinson’s Disease which may be your primary care physician in areas of limited access or more likely your neurologist and even more specialized, a movement disorder specialist.
Physiotherapist: Physiotherapy works to develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and function. In Parkinson’s Disease specifically, physiotherapists can teach movement strategies to develop independent mobility, improve balance to prevent falls and optimize overall strength and fitness. This can result in improved balance, coordination, fatigue, gait, pain and weakness.
Massage Therapist: Massage therapy is valuable in helping to reduce muscle spasm and trigger points through physical manipulation.
Occupational Therapist: Occupational therapy is designed to maintain the patient’s performance in the realms of work, leisure and activities necessary for living such as personal care, mobility, housekeeping and caregiving. They work to reduce restrictions to achieve meaningful activities and goals. They do so by improving skills, introducing different approaches to activities and also by suggesting useful equipment.
Dietician: People with Parkinson’s Disease are susceptible to weight loss and malnutrition due to the increased energy burned through involuntary movements and medication side effects that can limit food intake. Therefore a nutritionist can help with healthy eating habits (including protein rescheduling if protein intake interferes with medication efficacy), weight maintenance or gain, managing constipation through high fibre diets, bone health and swallowing difficulties.
Support groups: Patients themselves are often best at sharing comprehensive practical information and suggestions with each other via support groups virtual or otherwise. Not to mention the personal support that interaction with others who are going through a similar life experience gives which can be truly profound.
Professional Counseling: Although many of us get much comfort by sharing our experiences with others in a similar situation, at times in our illness, our stress level may require professional counseling. Psychiatry may also need to be involved if a clinical diagnosis of depression or anxiety is made.