Parkinson Disease Month 

April is Parkinson Disease Awareness Month.  Over a million Americans and their families are living with PD. spousal caregiverIt is a neurological disease, causing changes in movement and balance over time. Because the brain doesn’t produce enough Dopamine (a chemical in the brain) movement and mood are impaired. So dopamine is needed to spark our motivation and anticipation of pleasurable experiences. Without enough dopamine, we become listless and weaker. Dopamine is sometimes called the “motivation molecule”

A lack of dopamine is associated with:

  • Fatigue
  • Apathy
  • Lack of focus
  • Forgetfulness
  • Moodiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Sugar cravings
  • Lower motivation

Most Recognizable Symptoms

Hand or arm tremors, stiffness used to be the main symptoms of Parkinson disease but they are not the only ones.  Because medication limits tremors, other motor and non-motor symptoms are used for diagnosis. We don’t know what causes PD, though environmental factors and lifestyle choices are strong factors.  Only 10-15 percent of people with PD have some genetic link, although it is not hereditary. Parkinson disease affects older adults but young onset cases are becoming more common.

Other symptoms include: Stiffness, shaking, slow movement, low voice,  small handwriting, loss of sense of smell, body pain, constipation, changes in mood and motivation, flat affect, feeling tired, tiring easily, difficulty thinking (Lewy Body Hallucinations) among other things. Every person experiences Parkinson disease differently.

Treatment Options

Because PD is so individualized what works for one person, may work differently in another. Professionals and patients agree exercise and medication are most effective. Since PD is a movement disorder disease, daily activity is crucial to reduce symptoms so that a person can maintain greater normalcy. As a progressive disease, the latter years have more physical impairment.  So, it is important to monitor medication, (Sinamet is most common), and change up daily activity routines.  We recommend building your team.  Family and friends are first on your team but not the only ones. Spouses and family are often primary care partners.

Your team should include: A Movement Disorder Neurologist

Physical trainer or Physical Therapist

Financial Planner – it is important to plan ahead

Elder Law Attorney or Trust Attorney


Speech Therapist (swallowing and talking)

Home Safety and Modifiations Specialist

Hired aide or caregiver as need dictates

Social Worker or Care Manager (Benefits and Resources)

Membership in a Parkinson Organization

So, if you or someone you know has Parkinson disease get educated, get moving, get connected and get help or supported as needed.