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What Should Your Health Care Team Look Like

Everyone with Parkinson's Disease knows they need a neurologist, but sometimes our health care team stops there. Yet, everyone talks about the importance of a holistic treatment approach. Lets learn about all the people that should be in your corner.



Primary Care Physician

This should be on everyone's list whether they have PD or not. Your Primary Care will help screen you every year to make sure all of your body systems are functioning well. They also help refer you to other professionals if they feel like more care is needed. Not every Primary Care is going to be well versed in Parkinson's. Finding one that advocates for you and really listens to your concerns is so important.


Neurologist

There is a difference between a Neurologist and a Movement Disorder Specialist. Both have extensive training in treating people with neurological conditions, but a Movement Disorder Specialist has further specialization in treating those with PD, amongst other movement disorders. It is highly recommended that you see someone who is a Movement Disorder Specialist if you have PD.


Dermatologist

Melanoma has a high prevalence in those with PD. Seeing a Dermatologist for yearly skin checks is so important for increasing your survival rate if you do have Melanoma. Check out our last blog post to learn more about skin cancer!


Physical Therapist (PT)

Many people already have a Physical Therapist to work on Parkinson's related impairments. This includes balance, stiffness, weakness, etc. If you are experiencing PD related symptoms that are impacting your function, it is important to see someone who has experience and training working with people with PD. It is important to note that there are PT's that can help you with any bowel or bladder changes (especially women), orthopedic conditions, help you get fitted for assistive devices such a wheelchair, and more! Make sure you are seeing someone who specializes in the specific impairments you are looking to get treated.


Occupational Therapy (OT)

OT is a profession that gets overlooked but it is such an important part of rehab! OT's can help you with activities like dressing and cooking, they can help address balance problems, they can help improve any cognitive changes like memory changes or difficulty sequencing different tasks, and they can even help with improving your vision. Many Occupational Therapists that have experience working with PD can be found in practices tied to hospitals or rehabilitation settings.


Speech Language Pathologist (SLP)

SLP's can help improve your speech and swallowing skills. If you are finding your speech changing or if you are choking on foods or liquids, an SLP will work with you to improve your coordination and strengthen your muscle involved in speech and swallowing. Want to learn about common speech and swallowing changes in PD? Read our blog post.



Psychologist and/or psychiatrist

Anxiety and depression are common non-motor symptoms with PD. Sometimes these can be worked on and improved without the need for outside help, but other times you may need a professional to help guide you through tough times.

A Psychologist and Psychiatrist can help with talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, but a Psychiatrist will also help prescribe you any medications they feel necessary to tackle your concerns. Talk with your Doctor about which professional is right for you.


Registered Dietician

Diet plays a large role in all of our lives, but the foods we eat when we have PD can really influence our symptoms and effectiveness of medication. Out diet can also influence other conditions we may be facing, like high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Working with a Registered Dietician who specialized in PD or has experience with PD can help ensure that the foods you are eating are right for you.


Ophthalmologist

Vision changes are another common non-motor symptom with PD. Having your eyes checked yearly is helpful to track any normal aging related changes, but seeing a Neuro-Ophthalmologist is recommending if you are having trouble concentrating, having eye pain, having trouble focusing your vision, or having dizziness. Talk with your regular eye doctor and neurologist about if a Neuro-Ophthalmologist is right for you.


Dentist

Because we can see speech and swallowing changes in those with PD, we can also see changes in our teeth. This can be due to grinding our teeth or clenching our jaw. For those that experience slowness of movement, stiffness, tremors, or dyskinesias, physically brushing your teeth can be more challenging. Seeing a Dentist regularly can help be both proactive and reactive for any dental changes.


Gastroenterologist

Constipation is a common non-motor symptom. In fact, it can be a common symptom that people experience before they are diagnosed. A Gastroenterologist can help determine possible causes of your bowel changes and help determine what lifestyle changes need to be made and/or what medications should be added to help your bowel movements be more regular.


Massage Therapist

Many people with Parkinson's have pain and tightness. A Massage Therapist can help a lot with pain relief and get your body feeling more mobile. Massage Therapy can also be really great way for people to de-stress and take a moment for themselves.


Acupuncturist

Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine. Many people anecdotally share incredible results with pain reduction and headaches. While research is inconclusive regarding the theory behind acupuncture, there is no doubt that many people get relief from it.


Chiropractor

Chiropractors use high speed low force manipulations to difference joints throughout your body to help with orthopedic related pain and muscle tightness. Current guidelines have the greatest support for new onset of non specific low back pain and neck pain but lots of other orthopedic conditions can benefit from these types manipulations. There are a few theories behind manipulations, with the traditional theory of "subluxation" being disproven in research. What we do know is that it can be really helpful and it is safe!



As you can see, there are lots of different people who could and should be involved in your care and it is not limited to the one's listed above! Sometimes finding someone who is specialized with PD can be really hard, especially if you live in a more rural or secluded area. In any circumstance, it may be more important to find someone who is caring and attentive, and is willing to learn more about PD and work with you. It is encouraged that your team of health care providers is diverse, filled with various different professions. It is also encouraged that you build your team before you need them. Establishing care with a Doctor can take months, and finding a quality therapist that you trust can be hard! It is so much more comforting knowing if something does go wrong, you have someone you respect and trust already in your corner.




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