Parkinson’s Disease Early Detection
April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, after Alzheimer’s. Most people will develop symptoms of Parkinson’s disease around age 60. At Healthcare Network, within our senior primary care services, we watch for signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease as well as all potential illnesses that impact seniors.
Early detection of Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects more than 1 million Americans, is important to slowing disease progression. But many other illnesses share similar symptoms with Parkinson’s disease, including slowness, stiffness, tremors and imbalance. Age can make people more prone to falls and certain diseases, even without Parkinson’s disease.
Sometimes, people dismiss early symptoms of Parkinson’s as the effects of normal aging. Therefore, it is especially important for seniors to establish a relationship and health history with a primary care team who can detect potential health problems early before they become severe. About 85% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition. Sixty percent have at least two chronic conditions.
Importance of a Primary Care Physician in Treating Parkinson’s Disease
Several healthcare professionals are needed to effectively manage Parkinson’s disease and its impacts on quality of life, according to ParkinsonsDisease.net. For example, primary care providers focus on immediate and overall health needs while helping patients manage symptoms of the disease. Primary care providers often also coordinate care with other health professionals including neurologists and movement disorder specialists who assess disease progression and prescribe medications.
Overall, primary care physicians (PCPs) play a key role in senior care because they know the patient’s history and background. “The PCP is often the first point of contact for the patients and provides comprehensive care for chronic, preventive and acute conditions,” according to ParkinsonsDisease.net.
In addition, recent surveys have shown that strong patient-physician relationships result in healthier outcomes. Your PCP can connect the dots, spending less time on your past and more time on the future.
Research has shown that people who live in states that have more primary care physicians have better health outcomes. This includes fewer deaths from cancer, heart disease or stroke. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, respondents with primary care received more high-value care compared with those without primary care. Enhanced treatment included filling prescriptions, routine preventive visits and screenings.
According to Harvard Health, PCPs work in teams that keep the patient as the center of all diagnostic and treatment activities. “The explosion of medical knowledge and treatment alternatives makes it important to have a primary care provider to interpret and advise on the best course of action.”
Senior Care Helps to Manage Multiple Conditions
Parkinson’s disease occurs when nerve cells around the brain that controls movement become impaired and/or die. As the disease progresses and changes, so do care needs. Establishing care with a PCP provides continuity and consistency in care that can help Parkinson’s patients avoid using costly urgent care or emergency rooms for acute needs.
In addition, many people with Parkinson’s disease experience mood disorders because of their condition. Our integrated mental and behavioral health model, where medical and mental health professionals work side-by-side, allows these concerns to be addressed seamlessly during primary care visits.
Another advantage of having a dedicated PCP when dealing with Parkinson’s is they can watch for the impact of medication changes, infections, dehydration, sleep deprivation, stress and other medical conditions that can worsen Parkinson’s disease symptoms. A PCP can consider other conditions and medications and adjust with the patient’s overall health in mind.
People with Parkinson’s can expect to live almost as long as those who do not have the disorder. Medications, as well as physical and occupational therapy, can improve a person’s quality of life. Early detection and coordinated care are key to reducing complications. By being aware of the common chronic conditions associated with aging, your PCP can take steps to practice smart preventative care, manage complex chronic conditions like Parkinson’s and improve health outcomes.
Make an Appointment
To make an appointment at one of our many locations with a care provider, call 239-658-3000. Already a patient of Healthcare Network? Visit our secure Patient Portal to access medical information, request appointments, and manage prescriptions 24/7. Learn more.
Dr. Reiner Ramirez is a Healthcare Network family care provider who focuses on specific health concerns faced by seniors. Healthcare Network provides integrated health where medical and mental health professionals work side-by-side to address patients’ physical, mental and emotional health.