Raise Awareness

Rehabilitation Care & Parkinson’s: Start Early and Assess Often

Man doing physical therapy exercises using a stretch band

A serious misconception about Parkinson’s disease (PD) is that rehabilitative care should only come into play in the later stages of the disease. In fact, rehabilitation can play a crucial role in managing and improving PD symptoms, function, and quality of life and reducing disability from day one.

In January 2024, the Parkinson’s Foundation published a paper on the importance of delivering rehabilitation care in Parkinson’s in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease. This paper was written by the Parkinson’s Foundation Global Rehabilitation Medicine Task Force, which was formed to help healthcare professionals incorporate rehabilitation into PD care.

“Our goal is to raise awareness of the importance of rehabilitation care in PD. We want to motivate people living with Parkinson’s to advocate for their best care, and that means knowing that they can start rehabilitative care at any point in their disease. We also want to motivate professionals to include evidence-based rehabilitation interventions when providing care to every person with Parkinson’s,” said Jennifer Goldman, MD, MS co-chair of the Parkinson’s Foundation Rehabilitation Medicine Task Force.

Rehab infographic

Parkinson’s rehabilitation services should start early and be assessed every year.

Rehabilitation is defined as a set of treatments and therapies that can help people with Parkinson’s maintain or improve activities of daily living and independence. PD rehabilitation can include:

Trained rehabilitation professionals provide care with the goal of keeping people with PD communicating well, engaging in activities they love and moving well. Rehabilitative care plays a crucial role in PD care and improving health outcomes, with growing evidence showing the benefit for movement and non-movement symptom management, activities of daily living and quality of life.

Key Highlights

The Parkinson’s Foundation Global Rehabilitation Medicine Task Force published the following takeaways regarding rehabilitative care and PD: 

  • Rehabilitation should involve the person with PD and care partner and should incorporate shared decision-making to promote symptom management and independence.

  • Care coordination and communication among the rehabilitation team, the entire PD care team, the person with PD, and care partner are critical for best results.

  • Rehabilitative care professionals should have knowledge and expertise in treating people with Parkinson’s disease.

  • Since Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, rehabilitative care should be offered at diagnosis and regularly throughout the disease course with repeated assessments and interventions adapted to changes in a person’s condition or needs.

  • Rehabilitative interventions are critical in treating PD, alongside medical, surgical and other PD-related interventions.

What is the takeaway for people with Parkinson’s?

More than half of people with PD are never referred to rehabilitative therapy in their lifetime. Research shows that these therapies help with symptom management and help people with PD stay independent longer. Many healthcare professionals and people with PD remain unaware of the potential impact of rehabilitative care, thereby limiting their use and availability in the PD community. These therapies are greatly under-utilized for people living with PD.

Rehab infographic

Participating in rehabilitation care leads to:

The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends that every person with PD ask their PD doctor at least once a year if they can benefit from rehabilitative services.

Learn more about Physical, Occupational & Speech Therapies. For a referral to a rehabilitation expert near you, call our Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636).

Back to Top