Parkinson's disease: Tool kits help patients take charge of their health

Living with Parkinson's disease can be challenging, but there are lots of things patients can do to improve their quality of life.

The right medication, nutrition, alternative therapies and social support can all have a huge impact.

But you have to know where to start.

That's why the Parkinson's Foundation is helping newly diagnosed people take charge of their health with a special kit.

Mary Shea uses a neuro-stimulator to help manage her symptoms, but without it, the 65-year-old experiences a tremor in her hands. So she understands the difficulties that can come when living with Parkinson's disease.

One out of 100 people over 50 will get diagnosed with Parkinson's and the symptoms can be extremely challenging.

"It's having trouble moving fast and also moving with agility," said Dr. Giselle Petzinger, a movement disorder specialist with Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Petzinger says Parkinson's also slows the ability to process information. The combination leads to balance issues.

"And that's a very uncomfortable feeling for people," Petzinger said.

Not every patient has tremors and not every patient will undergo deep brain stimulation, but Shea says every patient does have essential needs. And not every healthcare provider is aware of those needs. So, the Parkinson's foundation created an Aware in Care kit.

"It's kind of a safety net for patients when they go to the hospital," Shea explains.

The kit can be very useful during an accident or a planned operation. Inside is a medic-alert bracelet, an action plan and slips to remind doctors that patients need to take their dopamine medications on time.

"If the drug is gone then circuits start slowing down again. The patient starts having trouble with agility and balance," said Petzinger.

The Parkinson's Foundation found three out of four Parkinson's patients do not get their medications on time.

Included in the kit is a medication form that can empower patients to stay on top of their care.

"That educational part is actually quite critical to be conveyed properly to whoever else is involved in that care," Petzinger said.

"There are certain medicines that interact with certain Parkinson's medicines that could be deadly actually," Shea said.

As a Parkinson's Foundation ambassador, Shea's goal is to get these kits into the hands of every patient in Southern California.

"Any one of us is just a car chase away from landing in the hospital. Keep the kit handy at all times," she said.

The Aware in Care kits are available for free and can also be ordered through the Parkinson's Foundation.
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