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The Parkinsonís Mailbag Ė Finding the Right PD Professionals

Finding the Right PD Professionals

Ivan Suzman

A diagnosis of Parkinson's disease is likely to change your life immediately and dramatically. Responsibilities and needs flood in, from finding a neurologist to learning everything that you and your family need to know about PD. In this article, we address just one of these challenges - identifying several of the Parkinson's professionals who will help you navigate this next phase of your life.

Let someone else do the heavy lifting!
Before you turn to multiple sources to find a specific PD professional, you may want to contact the Parkinson's Disease Foundation at (800) 457-6676 or by email at info@pdf.org. PDF is dedicated to serving the Parkinson's community, and can provide a one-stop shop for referrals to various Parkinson's specialists.

Other national Parkinson's organizations that can also provide assistance and referrals include the American Parkinson Disease Association, (800) 223-2732 or www.apdaparkinson.org, and the National Parkinson Foundation, (800) 327-4545 or www.parkinson.org.

Researching a neurologist
The first step for someone who has just been diagnosed with Parkinson's is finding a neurologist who specializes in PD. It could be that the doctor who made your diagnosis is the right one. If, on the other hand, the diagnosing doctor is a general practitioner - or even a general neurologist - you may want to look further.

One option is to contact your healthcare provider for a list of neurologists included in your insurance network. It is important to remember that you can see as many neurologists as you need to until you find the one who is right for you. Ask yourself, after the first visit or two: does your doctor spend enough time with you to answer your questions? Is your doctor available via telephone if you have a problem to discuss or a question to ask? Are you comfortable with your treatment and do you understand how your medication schedule works best for you?

You may also wish to contact a local Parkinson's support group whose members can provide you with a great resource for neurology referrals - word of mouth! PIENO, the Parkinson's Information Exchange Network Online, which has approximately 1,000 active members, of whom approximately 700 are patients, may also be able to provide suggestions on a neurologist. To contact PIENO, email parkinsn@listserv.utoronto.ca and include "subscribe PARKINSN" in your message.

Another resource to contact is your state branch of the American Medical Association (AMA), www.ama-assn.org or (800) 621-8335, and ask for a referral for a neurologist who is certified by the American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry. You can also visit www.neurologychannel.com and use the MD Locatorô to find neurologists in your area. If you are uninsured, you should contact the outpatient department of your local hospital.

Exploring physical therapy
Most Parkinson's patients will benefit from a visit to a physical therapist. The physical therapist can recommend an exercise program to keep you in the best possible physical form. To find one in your area, ask your neurologist for a referral and call your insurance company to determine if physical therapy will be covered. You can also check with friends and members of your support group for suggestions of physical therapists who have experience with PD. The American Physical Therapy Association, www.apta.org or (800) 999-2782, provides basic information on what physical therapy involves, and can help you find physical therapists who specialize in balance and gait disorders.

Retaining the best legal representation
At some point, you are likely to face issues related to your Parkinson's that will require the help of an experienced attorney. As when searching for a neurologist, ask a friend or family member for a referral. You can also check the phone book for contact information for your local or state bar association. Many local bar associations feature committees on specific legal problems, and can provide a list of attorneys that specialize in your area of need. If you prefer to use the Internet, visit the website of the American Bar Association at www.abanet.org. Be sure that your attorney understands your needs, explains legal procedures to you clearly and has the experience that you require.

Finding the right Parkinson's professionals can seem difficult but I hope that these tips will be helpful in your search for the best possible PD specialists. If you have any questions or comments, email The Mailbag at info@pdf.org or call (800) 456-6676.

In an upcoming issue of News & Review, I will be writing about home safety tips. Please email or mail any helpful tips and suggestions on home safety to me, at The Mailbag, care of PDF.