Can Palliative Care Make a Difference in Parkinson Disease?

Betty R. Ferrell, PhD, RN


April 24, 2019

Palliative Care in Parkinson Disease

Patients with Parkinson disease can benefit from palliative care at all stages of this disease, not just when nearing the end of life. Although many of the principles of palliative care apply across diagnoses, patients and families facing Parkinson disease have unique needs requiring attention. Family caregivers in this population face challenges of caring for patients with cognitive decline, impaired speech, physical aggression, potential aspiration, and managing complex medication regimens.

Parkinson disease is increasingly being recognized as a disease that has a huge impact on patients and their caregivers.[1,2,3] Patients facing this serious, chronic illness often live more than a decade with significant neurologic symptoms, pneumonia, dysphagia, diminished function, anxiety, and depression. Studies have also documented that these patients are infrequently referred to hospice, and frequently admitted to the hospital.[4,5,6]

Development of palliative care for patients and their families will require attention to the specific characteristics of the disease. In doing so, palliative care staff work in close collaboration with neurologists. There is tremendous potential to improve the experience and quality of life for this population by integrating palliative care into the management of Parkinson disease.

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