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How palliative care helps people with Parkinson's

On Jan. 22, the Fallbrook Parkinson's Support Group heard about "Parkinson's Disease and Palliative Care" from Keleigh Reyes, BHA, MBA.

She started out with giving the definition of Parkinson's, according to Webster's 2016 Dictionary, as "a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movement, chiefly affecting middle-aged and elderly people. It is associated with the degeneration of the basal ganglia of the brain and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine."

More clearly stated, she said, "It is a disorder of the central nervous system. Nerve cell damage in the brain causes dopamine levels to drop causing the above mentioned symptoms."

Besides tremor, muscular disturbance, the symptoms of Parkinson's disease also include cognitive/memory impairment, sleep disturbances, speech impairment, facial stiffness and lack of expression, urinary leaking, and mood disturbance.

Common treatment takes many forms. Pharmacological treatment assists with dopamine levels, as well as treating depression or anxiety and sleep disturbances. Life style changes including exercise can also help as does having a neurologist who specializes in Parkinson's or in movement disorders. Physical therapy is also beneficial as is hospice care in the later stages of the disease.

Palliative care is an alternative treatment. Reyes said that according to the World Health Organization, "Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening, chronic illness (WHO, 2016)".

She advised that patients and their families should be mindful and informed that many physicians interchange the use of the wording for hospice care and palliative care. While hospice is a specific type of palliative care, palliative care is not hospice care. Palliative care, Reyes said, is for people of all ages and at any stage of their illness whereas hospice care is for people needing end-of-life specialized care.

Reyes explained that palliative care provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms. It affirms life, while integrating the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care. Palliative care uses a team approach to enhance quality of life and can be used in conjunction and simultaneously with aggressive treatments

To answer the question "Is it time for palliative care?", Reyes said that it is when one's medical providers are doing all they can but the patient is still not getting relief of their symptoms, and/or when their family is not receiving proper support.

To obtain palliative care, she recommended asking one's physician for a referral for a palliative care physician (if one has an HMO or PPO). One can also research and look for a palliative care physician who best fits their own needs (if on Medicare) and/or ask for recommendations from friends and one's community.

Alternative treatments that help people with Parkinson's cope with their symptoms include massage and/or music therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, Reiki, essential oils, pet therapy, and a concierge palliative mobile MD.

A transitions coordinator with Mission Healthcare, Reyes can be reached at (858) 255-9407 for more information.


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