By Megan Ray
As a health professional it’s important to educate your patients on prevalent diseases to ensure that they’re doing everything they can to avoid them. It’s also essential that they know how to support loved ones if they’re diagnosed with one of these common illnesses. For example, during Parkinson’s Awareness Month in April, it’s essential to familiarize patients with the progressive movement disorder and how it impacts people across the U.S. Here are a few tips for helping your patients understand Parkinson’s.
1. Provide details on how the disease develops.
Most people have heard of Parkinson’s disease, a condition that affects as many as 1 million Americans, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. However, you may find that if you asked your patients what exactly Parkinson’s is, they wouldn’t know how to answer. This is why explaining how the disease develops is a good starting point when educating people on the condition. Note that Parkinson’s occurs when the vital nerve cells in the brain called neurons start to malfunction and eventually die. These neurons are fundamental to people’s health because they produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the brain that coordinate movement and muscle coordination. Individuals who have a very low level of dopamine begin to experience difficulty controlling their movements and are often diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
2. Explain the treatment options for the condition.
Point out to your patients that one of the reasons Parkinson’s is such as serious disease is that there isn’t currently a cure for the condition. A significant amount of research has been performed over the past several years to uncover possible causes. As a result, many effective treatment and therapy options are available for Parkinson’s patients to alleviate the symptoms of the disease. Potential causes that have been studied include environmental and genetic factors.
3. Educate them on the symptoms.
While every patient has a different experience with Parkinson’s in regard to how quickly it progresses and the side effects they notice, there are four main symptoms that most people will develop. These include tremors in the hands, legs, jaw and arms, muscle stiffness or rigidity, bradykinesia – or slowness of movement – and posture instability. Other common side effects include fatigue, constipation, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety and a decline in cognitive function, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.
4. Emphasize the importance of screenings.
While an estimated 1 million people in the U.S. may be living with Parkinson’s disease, only about 60,000 have been diagnosed, as it’s not uncommon for cases to go undetected. Don’t forget to point out that only four percent of those diagnosed with the disease are under the age of 50, as people’s risk of Parkinson’s increases with age. Statistics also show that men are slightly more vulnerable to the disease. Encourage patients to see their doctor if they experience any of the symptoms of the condition, such as tremors. The sooner that they can begin receiving therapy or treatment for their symptoms, the less of an impact Parkinson’s will have on their daily lives.
5. Provide them with resources for support.
Whether your patients have recently been diagnosed with the disease, are caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed or know someone with the condition, they’ll probably want to know who to reach out to for help. For example, caregivers may want information on local support groups and guides to understanding the common symptoms of the disorder. Handing out your own pamphlets is a great way to give patients direct access to key facts and resources. However, directing them to the resources provided by the National Parkinson’s Foundation and the organization’s helpline at 1.800.4PD.INFO or firstname.lastname@example.org is also an effective way to ensure they have the assistance they need when required.
Source:: The Sunrise Blog