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Why Therapy is Essential When Managing Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder in the United States.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, it’s estimated that 500,000+ Americans are currently living with PD, with the actual number likely being higher due to undiagnosed and misdiagnosed individuals. This leaves family members and caregivers with the responsibility of caring for their loved ones and supporting them through their journey. In preparing to care for a loved one with PD, it’s important to understand the disease and what resources are available to best manage its impact.
What Is Parkinson’s Disease?
PD is a chronic progressive disorder of the central nervous system that belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders. It is the direct result of the loss of cells from the substantia nigra, a part of the brain that helps control one’s movements.
PD often begins with tremors in the hand of one side of the body. Over time, these tremors might be accompanied with slowness and stiffness on the affected side. Movements become smaller and less fluid, with the possibility of impairment presenting itself on the other side of the body as well. Some might also notice a slight foot drag on the affected side or a feeling of walking with great effort. Speech and voice production might also change with noticeable characteristics of speaking more softly or quickly, slurring words, or hesitating before talking.
“It is critical to stress that both the nature and severity of symptoms vary tremendously from one patient to another,” explains Emily Eckhardt, MA, CCC-SLP, CDP, and a member of EmpowerMe Wellness’ Clinical Education and Enrichment team. “Through managing this chronic disease, medical providers can help slow down the progression of the disease and help control the symptoms to maintain current abilities as long as possible.”
“Through managing this chronic disease, medical providers can help slow down the progression of the disease and help control the symptoms to maintain current abilities as long as possible.”
What Is the Best Course of Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease?
Once the patient is diagnosed by a neurologist, there are several courses of symptom management that their medical provider might suggest. In addition to prescribed medications, physical, occupational, and speech therapy greatly help the patient’s ability to stay strong and mobile, avoid falls, accomplish necessary tasks, and communicate effectively.
Caregivers can help their loved ones maintain the best possible health by ensuring proper nutrition and hydration, participation in counseling, and participation in exercise daily. The physical and psychological benefits of exercise make it an essential part of life for those with Parkinson’s disease. Practitioner Emily Eckhardt recommends that those diagnosed with PD exercise the face, jaws, and voice whenever possible without overexerting themselves.
Mental health counseling for care partners can also be helpful. Spouses, children, and friends of persons with Parkinson’s disease often benefit from special guidance.