April 18th, 2017 null Tag Home Health Care

Parkinson’s 101: A Handy How-To Guide

by Susan Sender

Let’s say you’re a caregiver whose loved one has Parkinson’s Disease. How do you go about securing healthcare services at home?

Be sure the agency is a certified agency. Ask whether the home health agency in question has special expertise in Parkinson’s Disease. Find out how the case is likely to be managed. Will the patient, for example, have the same therapist day in and day out, or will they change? For how long a period is the patient likely to need therapy?

You may interview individual agencies under consideration. Ask, for example, whether and how family members can participate in developing the plan of care created for each patient. Family members should, if the patient agrees, participate in such planning and, furthermore, have access to services tailored for family caregivers 24/7. Ask if you will be assigned a case manager – a clinician assigned to be make sure that all your needs are met, and who coordinates care with all of the other healthcare team members as well as other providers like your doctor, equipment company, etc.

Such questions are key. Parkinson’s is a neurological condition that is degenerative. How well patients are able to manage symptoms varies widely. Some can work and be up and around, while others face challenges. A patient at later stages of the disease might require more intensive therapy, including speech therapy. Finally, personal care might be essential to help with feeding, bathing and dressing.

Reputable home health agencies generally offer a wide range of suitable services for Parkinson’s Disease, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, nursing services as well as home health aides.

An RN or Therapist will typically take responsibility as case manager and collaborate with other clinicians and providers. A physical therapist might be a better fit in this role where therapy is the primary service provided for a patient, who may benefit from a home exercise program designed to increase flexibility and strengthen muscles.

Many different treatments are available for Parkinson’s, plus surgical options. In some cases, for example, deep-brain stimulation may completely eliminate tremors. Medications may decrease muscle rigidity, improve muscular coordination and manage tremors. 

One of the best treatments is exercise. A physical therapist typically starts patients on a home exercise program to work the large muscle groups. The therapist also teaches exercises for the patient to practice that help manage symptoms. For fine motor skills, a patient may need occupational therapy to help with activities of daily living. All of these therapies can help patients become more independent.

If a patient is no longer safe at home – if, for example, a patient lives alone or the family and a home health or personal care agency are unable to provide a protective environment – then a skilled nursing facility might be the right choice. But that should be considered only if you’ve exhausted all other options.

Above all, visit the Home Care Compare site at Medicare.gov. There, you’ll be able to compare the quality of care among all the certified agencies in your region of the country. Ask about their Star rating.

For further details, read a recent article featuring my comments about home care for Parkinson’s patients in Caring.com.

Here, too, is general advice about how to choose a home health agency and the top 11 questions to ask.

 

 

 

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