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Living With Parkinson’s
Living with Parkinson’s requires a proactive approach right from the beginning. It’s essential to understand the disorder, its symptoms, and the various ways of managing them. Collaborating with healthcare professionals, you can develop strategies to maintain control over your daily living and improve your quality of life.
While there isn’t a cure for Parkinson’s yet, symptoms can be effectively managed through medication, healthy lifestyle choices, and in some cases, medical procedures.
Regular exercise is pivotal to managing Parkinson’s, offering significant improvements in mobility, balance, and coordination. Whether continuing a current routine or starting fresh, physical activity has both short and long term benefits to movement as well as mental and emotional well-being.
A healthy diet is vital for overall well-being, and while there’s no specific diet for Parkinson’s, certain dietary choices can help. Fruits and vegetables high in fiber can alleviate digestion issues, while those rich in antioxidants reduce the risk of many diseases. And staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water has countless benefits from aiding digestion to reducing muscle cramps.
Medications play a key role in managing tremors and other movement symptoms related to Parkinson’s. These medications, which often increase or substitute dopamine, vary in effectiveness as the disorder progresses. Common medications include carbidopa and levodopa, dopamine agonists, COMT inhibitors, MAO inhibitors, and anticholinergic agents. Treatment choices depend on symptoms, side effects, age, and daily activities.
Deep Brain Stimulation
For some people with Parkinson’s, deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment option. This advanced therapy involves implanting electrodes into specific brain regions. The electrodes are then connected to a control device placed in the chest, allowing for the modulation of brain activity to manage Parkinson’s symptoms more effectively.
Your Treatment Team
Managing Parkinson’s requires a diverse team of healthcare professionals. Their involvement will evolve as your symptoms progress.
This team may include:
- Movement Disorder Specialist (neurologists who specialize in Parkinson’s)
- Rehabilitation Specialists (physical, occupational, and speech therapists)
- Primary Care Provider
- Nurse Nutritionist
- Neuropsychologist Social
- Worker Pharmacist
Parkinson’s disease affects everyone differently, and every situation is unique. The type and severity of your symptoms, and the kind of work you do, will impact whether you are still going strong 20 years after your diagnosis, or if you are unable to continue in your career after just a couple years. In general, most people can expect to be able to work for several years before Parkinson’s substantially interferes with their ability to do their job.
Deciding when to talk to your employer can be tough. A lot depends on your relationship with your supervisor and your position within the company, but it’s usually better to have the conversation before your work quality begins to suffer so that smaller, more manageable accommodations can be made to make the transition smoother. Consulting resources in advance, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to find what accommodations are most applicable to your situation, can be extremely helpful to start the discussion. And be prepared to educate your supervisor and colleagues about your individual symptoms and how Parkinson’s affects your daily life, so that everyone understands your situation and your capabilities. In the unfortunate instance where you experience conflict with your employer, it’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney so that you know your rights.
If you’re unable to continue working, explore options for early retirement, standard retirement, medical benefits, or accessing retirement savings plans. Consult with a financial advisor to be aware of potential penalties or taxes.
The ADA provides job protections for those with advanced Parkinson’s, which is recognized as a disability. However, not every person with Parkinson’s will meet the standards. To benefit from ADA protections, you must disclose your disability and request reasonable accommodations to maintain job performance.
Understanding your rights and seeking support early can make a significant difference in managing Parkinson’s over the long term.
Ready to form your treatment team? Find a provider near you.