Coronavirus and Parkinson’s Disease: What You Need to Know

Having Parkinson’s disease (PD) comes with many uncertainties and anxiety. On top of this now is the concern about coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. PD symptoms can worsen when you also have another illness.  And some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease may increase the risk for complications from this respiratory virus, such as difficulty breathing or swallowing. Other factors that may increase risk of complications are older age and having other serious medical conditions such as heart disease, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, and kidney failure.  The added stress from worry over catching the new virus and the need to remain at home can also increase PD symptoms.

Meanwhile, much of the country is beginning to open, which makes it more important than ever to remain safe – and know what to do if you feel sick. 

Understanding the Main Symptoms of Coronavirus

The list of coronavirus symptoms has grown to include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills or shaking, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and recent loss of smell or taste. For more information on these and other signs of coronavirus, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  

When to Contact the Doctor 

If you notice any new or worsening symptoms, regardless of what you think is causing the changes, contact your primary doctors right away. This would include your primary care provider or neurologist. The doctor(s) will let you know what to do. You may be offered a telehealth visit instead of an in-office appointment. This is a way to assess your health and keep you safe from being exposed to the coronavirus. For tips on making the most of this new way of speaking with your doctor, click here

In case you do get sick, have a plan in place. Make a list of your medicines, medical providers, and any other care providers. It’s important to remember that there are many medicines you have to avoid or use with caution when you have PD. Some are listed here. Also note how you plan to stay in touch with caregiver(s) and family – such as email, text message, or cell phone. 

Before a trip to the emergency department for possible coronavirus symptoms, check with your doctor.  

You should also check with your doctor’s office to see if you can use a telehealth visit for regular appointments. These virtual visits are now covered by Medicare due to the pandemic.

For more detailed information about PD and COVID-19, visit the American Parkinson’s Disease Foundation and the Parkinson’s Foundation

Tips for Staying Safe from the Coronavirus

Even as communities re-open, it’s important to keep following CDC guidelines to stay safe, including consistent handwashing for you and your loved one – or use of hand sanitizers, and social distancing. If you rely on health aides at home, make sure they use face masks and follow all hand-washing practices when they are with you and your loved one. The same should be expected of any visitor to your home. 

More details about staying safe can be found on the CDC website.

What Palliative Care Provides

You may already be seeing the palliative care team; but if it’s new to you, it’s important to know that this is a medical specialty that focuses on managing complex symptoms, side effects, and stress of serious illnesses like Parkinson’s disease. They work with your existing doctors to address symptoms including as depression, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. 

They also educate you and guide you and your loved ones through all the distress caused by your illness. The team will help you navigate the complex health care system. They will keep you, your family and all your doctors coordinated and on the same page.

In addition, your palliative care team can help you fully discuss your health with your family. Palliative care specialists can help you match your treatment to your goals of care by focusing on what matters most to you. The team will use their communication expertise to help you achieve your personal goals while living with the disease. They understand that every patient and every family is different. The team is there to focus on your quality of life. 

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