People living with Parkinson's disease (PD) benefit most from a comprehensive, team-based healthcare approach. The Parkinson's Foundation promotes an allied health team approach in our Centers of Excellence networks. Having a group of medically diverse experts effectively managing your PD symptoms can maximize your quality of life. While some people find all of their specialists in one practice, in most cases, the person with PD will have to build a team.
Your allied healthcare team should include many of the following professionals:
Movement Disorders Specialist
Movement disorders specialists are neurologists who specialize in conditions such as Parkinson's disease and have experience treating it at every stage. The Parkinson's Foundation recommends people diagnosed with PD make a movement disorders doctor a major part of their healthcare team. If you live near a medical center that has a movement disorders program, one of these specialists may be your regular PD doctor. For those without easy access to an academic medical center or a specialist in private practice, we recommend a nearby general neurologist for most of your care and then traveling a longer distance a few times a year to see a specialist.
Speech-language pathologists assess and treat communication, speech and swallowing problems. These therapists can help ease PD-related speaking and eating challenges if they arise.
Physical therapists help people living with PD maintain or regain mobility. They develop customized exercises to address walking, balance, posture, flexibility and strength challenges associated with Parkinson's. A physical therapist can also provide ways to prevent freezing and falls.
An occupational therapist can help change your home or work environment, your approach to tasks and even the tasks themselves to meet any PD-related challenges. Occupational therapists can also help you find any assistive devices — from a swivel seat for your car to a specialized computer mouse — suited to your needs.
Social workers offer counseling services to individuals, couples and families. A social worker can also help sort out and resolve insurance, housing and disability issues.
Nutritionists can suggest optimal foods to help you continue to live well with Parkinson's. A nutritionist or dietician can also be helpful if you have trouble chewing or swallowing, difficulty preparing nutritious meals or problems with your weight.
The services of complementary therapists and others can be helpful. If you're considering deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery, a neurosurgeon and neuropsychologist will become members of your team. Consider adding a mental health professional to your team to help address mood changes and coping with PD.
Find expert care in your area or call the Parkinson's Foundation Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (473-4636).
Watch this webinar for more information about Getting the Most from Your Doctor's Visit.