In recent years, research has suggested that taking a “team approach” to PD treatment can lead to better overall outcomes and symptom management.1 But what does this mean? What is this comprehensive approach, and how do you know if it’s right for you?
What is comprehensive care?
Comprehensive care enlists the help of many different practitioners and experts to create a “team” of specialists whose primary job is creating a holistic approach to your care. From mood changes, to physical symptoms, to creating strategies to tackle tasks at home or work, your team has many outlets covered when it comes to your PD. Since PD can manifest differently, and can be handled very varied between individuals, one provider may not be enough to take on all challenges that arise on your journey. This is where a holistic team comes in. Whether you’re early in your PD battle, or have been fighting for a long time, the team approach to care can provide many benefits.
Who to include on your team?
Your team can change over time as your PD does, but the most important aspect of your team is YOU! You and your loved ones should feel comfortable and productive when working with any other team members and providers you bring on board. A great way to determine who to bring on your team, beyond your family and friends, is to make a list of all the symptoms that are giving you trouble, or that you’re worried about in the future, and finding a specialist to help tackle them. Some examples (but certainly not an exhaustive list!) include:
- Primary care provider and specialists: This is the most common starting point, as your primary care doctor may be the one who helped you discover your PD, and will be able to help you with long-term symptomatic care. They can also recommend or refer you to other specialists, such as a neurologist or a movement disorder specialist. It is important that you have a neurologist on your team—particularly a movement disorders specialist if possible—who is specially trained in understanding diagnosis, new and emerging treatments, and helpful ways to manage PD symptoms.
- Therapists: This can be the broadest category in regards to your team, because a therapist can go way beyond what we traditionally associate them with. Some specific examples include:
- Physical Therapists – for strength, endurance, flexibility, fall prevention, and home exercises
- Occupational Therapists – for help with everyday activities and chores at home or in your community, as well as recommending devices and technologies to aid you in your daily routine
- Speech and Swallowing Therapists – for help with communication, and voice problems, as well as swallowing difficulties and techniques.
- Creative Therapists – for help with hobbies and activities related to art, dancing, music, and recreation, among many others.
- Social workers, counselors, and neuropsychologists: This group can help with behavior and psychosocial aspects of PD, including coping techniques and mood issues.
- Dieticians: Dieticians can help with any weight changes, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, food-related difficulties with treatment plans, dehydration, and constipation.
- Spiritual leaders, community leaders, and support groups: Incorporating a spiritual aspect into your treatment plan and/or seeking guidance from a community leader or support group can help provide peer-to-peer support, a wider source of aid, and spiritual connectivity.2
Questions to ask your team
Oftentimes, many of your questions can be directed to your primary care provider, who then can refer you to the appropriate specialists for further help. Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with PD, or have been battling for a long while, it’s never a bad thing to ask any questions you may have.3 Some examples could be:
- What other specialists do you think I should see?
- Is it possible I could experience mood changes? What should I do if these arise?
- What symptoms should I be most concerned about?
- What treatments do you recommend for me, and what side effects do they have?
- Do you recommend me visiting a specialist for treatment side effects?
- When should I seek emergency care?
- I’m having trouble with _______. Do you recommend adding someone to my healthcare team to tackle this?
Remember, your team is under your jurisdiction, and although your primary care provider, or other members of your team may recommend certain specialists, it’s up to you and your loved ones to determine if they receive a spot on your team, and how big their role is. Let us know who’s on your healthcare team, and how you decided to include them on your journey!