If you or a loved one is living with Parkinson’s disease, you may already realize how crucial finding the right doctor is to feeling supported and healthy. Finding the right doctor can dramatically improve how supported and educated you feel, and how well your Parkinson’s symptoms are managed.
How can you find the right doctor? Once you find one, what are some tips for managing the relationship? If you have Parkinson’s, you should consider:
- Seeing a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders, who is up-to-date on research and approaches to therapy
- Getting a second opinion
- Finding a doctor who is the "right fit"
- Preparing for each visit to maximize your time with your doctor
General Neurologist vs. Movement Disorder Specialist
What is a movement disorder specialist? Why should you see one?
A movement disorder specialist is a neurologist who is trained specifically to treat movement disorders. Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder – a neurological condition that affects movement. Movement disorder specialists must complete their residency training in neurology and then complete additional training (a fellowship) in movement disorders. These are the most qualified doctors to treat Parkinson’s disease because of their in-depth knowledge of the disease, its symptoms, medications and current research (including clinical trials).
PDF recommends that each person with Parkinson’s see a movement disorder specialist. There may not be a movement disorder specialist in your area. In this case you may still be able to receive good care by finding the right general neurologist or even gerontologist, internist or general practitioner - especially if they are willing to consult with a movement specialist as needed.
Finding the Right Doctor
You should feel comfortable in your relationship with your doctor and feel that it is a good “match.” If not, perhaps you need to find a new doctor that can work better with you and your family.
Is your doctor right for you? Consider these questions:
- Are you comfortable speaking with your doctor?
- Do you feel respected by your doctor?
- Are questions answered to your satisfaction or do you come away from a visit feeling that you have not been taken seriously?
- Can you get in touch with the doctor between visits?
- Ask your doctor, "How long should I expect to wait for a return phone call?"
- Does your doctor have a back up doctor in lieu of his/her absence?
- You may even decide to interview a neurologist before you make a definite selection. Ask questions such as, "What happens if I have new symptoms, or if questions arise between visits?"
Preparing for Your Doctor Visits
Most people with PD are advised to see their doctor every three to six months, especially if they are taking anti-Parkinson medications. If a person is experiencing problems with his or her condition or treatment, more frequent visits may be warranted.
Some people remain in regular contact with their doctors by telephone, fax and email. For people who urgently need to speak with their physician or schedule a visit, the most direct method of contact is the telephone.
To make the most of your visit, it is best to prepare questions for your doctor in advance, as well as updated information about your symptoms and side effects. See our checklist below for specific suggestions.