People with complex, chronic illnesses such as Parkinson's benefit from an interdisciplinary health care team. Collaboration by various health care providers can lead to more individualized treatment, a specialized care plan and, ultimately, better quality of life. The National Parkinson Foundation promotes this approach in our Centers of Excellence networks.
Your comprehensive care team should include many of the following health care professionals:
Movement Disorder Specialist
Movement disorder specialists are neurologists who specialize in treating people with Parkinson’s disease. They have extra training in Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. They’re usually located at academic medical centers and are often involved in leading-edge research. The benefit of seeing a movement disorder specialist is that they have a lot of experience treating the problems you face at each stage of the disease.
A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord and nerves. They treat a variety of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, seizure disorders and multiple sclerosis.
Primary Care Providers (PCP)
A PCP is often an internist or family practice physician and is usually your first point of contact, and he or she will manage your overall health. Don't be afraid to ask the family doctor for a referral to a specialist. Your PCP should receive periodic reports from your neurologist regarding the current management of your PD.
The nurse plays a pivotal role in your care. And a nurse who is highly trained in Parkinson’s disease could enhance your care even more. A nurse can help you manage your medications and give you guidance on how to manage your symptoms. A nurse can help identify and resolve any problems you have with your care and provide referrals to other healthcare professionals. Nurse practitioners have an advanced nursing degree and can treat many medical conditions without the direct supervision of a doctor.
Physician's Assistants (PA)
PAs have an advanced degree and work under the supervision of a doctor. PAs can work with specialists as well as primary care providers.
A social worker can be a very important part of a Parkinson’s care team. Dealing with the daily demands of Parkinson’s disease can be very stressful. A social worker can help you sort out and resolve issues associated with insurance, housing and disability. A social worker can also provide individual and family counseling.
A physical therapist can help you deal with issues associated with walking, posture, balance and endurance. A physical therapist can provide movement training and design exercise programs tailored to your needs.
As Parkinson’s advances, activities of daily living such as eating, bathing and getting from one place to another can become difficult. An occupational therapist can offer practical advice on how to manage the challenges you face at home or work. An occupational therapist will help you maintain your independence for as long as possible.
A speech-language pathologist will work with you to assess and treat communication, speech, and swallowing problems. Treatment with a therapist can improve problems you may experience with communication or eating.
A pharmacist provides valuable information about prescription medication and can provide counsel on possible drug interactions and side effects. Try to use the same pharmacy all the time, so there is a record of all medications you are currently on and have taken in the past.
A neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist with expertise in how behavior and cognitive (thinking) skills are related to brain structure and symptoms.
A psychiatrist is a physician who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental, behavioral or emotional problems such as depression and anxiety. These symptoms may require specialized treatment.
A psychologist can work with individuals and family members by providing advice and counseling for coping with the disease.
A nutritionist can be particularly helpful if you have trouble chewing or swallowing, difficulty preparing nutritious meals or problems with your weight.
The services of a complementary therapists and others can be very helpful. If you’re considering deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, a neurosurgeon and neuropsychologist will become members of your team.
Our Centers of Excellence are widely recognized as the best-in-class treatment centers for Parkinson’s disease. These certified centers provide team-based, interdisciplinary treatment and care to Parkinson’s patients.
Watch this webinar for more information about this topic: Getting the Most from Your Doctor's Visit