April is Parkinson's Awareness Month. It is the time of year when those who have Parkinson's, and those who work with or on behalf of people with Parkinson's try to spread awareness of the condition.
So, what is Parkinson's Disease? Well, it is a neurological condition (a disease that affects the brain) that gets worse over time. People with Parkinson's don't have enough of the chemical dopamine because some of the nerve cells that make it have died. Parkinson's affects posture, balance, physical movement, speech, swallowing and writing.
The need to spread awareness doesn't stop at the end of April. It's an ongoing process. After all, the more people are aware of Parkinson's, the more understanding there will be of the condition and the value of healthcare services for those who have it.
This month, I've had the pleasure of interviewing Richelle Flanagan & Gary Boyle, who both have early onset Parkinson's. Richelle was diagnosed at the age of 47 and Gary was diagnosed at the age of 44. Gary and Richelle are expert patients; they are both living with Parkinson's and their insights are valuable for health professionals to know.
In the interview, we cover a range of topics including
- how devastating it can be to receive a diagnosis of a neurological condition such as Parkinson's
- the importance of being made aware of services that can help when diagnosed (speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, dietetics, occupational therapy, counselling)
- the value of speech treatments such as Lee Silverman Voice Therapy (LSVT) and loud crowd maintenance groups
- the need for multidisciplinary teams and the potential long-term cost effectiveness of early intervention
- the importance of early intervention including swallowing assessments and the use of evidence-based tools such as Expiratory Muscle Strength Training where appropriate
- apathy and a lack of motivation amongst many individuals who have Parkinson's
- the usefulness and value of tele-therapy, particularly for people with Parkinson's (a movement disorder)
- the potential for there to eventually be some positives from the COVID19 crisis including increased use of tele-practice in healthcare and rehabilitation
- how much fun Irish dancing online can be!
A huge thank you to Gary & Richelle for taking the time to do the interview and share their valuable insights.
If you would like to know more about Parkinson's and the speech therapy treatments and tools that are available, check out some of our other blog posts on the topic. Don't forget to sign up for our free e-newsletter too.