Parkinson’s disease is a complex, chronic illness, which affects all aspects of a patient’s life. Therefore, the best care for a PD patient incorporates a number of resources available to help the patient cope and manage the disease.
- A neurologist is a physician who specializes in illnesses associated with the nervous system, including PD. A neurologist will evaluate the patient and prescribe appropriate medications to treat the most bothersome symptoms.
- A primary care physician will likely be the one who initially refers the patient to a neurologist. The primary care physician will see the patient for regular check-ups and is responsible for staying up-to-date on a patient’s treatment regimen for their PD.
- A physician’s assistant may work in either type of physicians’ office and will help the doctors monitor a patient’s condition and provide medical assistance at and in between clinic visits. A PA will also prescribe medications under the supervision of a physician.
- A physical therapist is trained to evaluate the patient’s condition and develop an exercise program designed to improve the motor symptoms and physical limitations of the patient, resulting from PD. The physical therapist regularly meets with the patient and guides them through a personalized program. Meeting with a physical therapist helps to improve overall strength and balance.
- A social worker is a professional that provides non-medical support to patients and their families to help them cope with the effects and changes brought about by Parkinson’s disease. Social workers can work in a number of environments and often host individual or group meetings for patients, family members, and caregivers.
- Parkinson’s disease often causes patients to have difficulties with speaking and swallowing. A speech and language pathologist is a healthcare professional who is trained to evaluate a patient’s condition and needs and develop individualized exercises and therapies to treat and manage associated speech/swallowing symptoms of PD.
- An occupational therapist evaluates the safety of a patient’s living conditions as well as provides assistance to the patient to help them adapt to any physical difficulties they may have navigating their everyday lives with Parkinson’s.
- A nutritionist or dietician assists patients by helping them manage a healthy diet. They provide dietary education and guidance in meal planning for patients. This service is particularly useful for patients who suffer with related symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, constipation, unwanted/unhealthy weight loss or gain.
- A pharmacist regularly dispenses prescription medications and can educate a patient or caregiver about the different types of medications, how to properly take the medications, and any known side effects or warnings.
- Mental health professionals also provide support to Parkinson’s patients as well as relatives and caregivers. A psychologist provides support to affected individuals by providing counseling and coping strategies. A psychiatrist is a physician who specializes in mental health illnesses. A psychiatrist is licensed to prescribe medications to help treat psychiatric conditions (i.e. depression, anxiety, etc.).